Lobbyists and Political Action Committees

By: James Moseman, Gettysburg

Tuesday morning was off to a great start as all Boys’ State citizens went our separate ways following the flag raising. Those in attendance at the Lobbying and Political Action Committees session were fortunate enough to hear from current lobbyist and past State Senator John Lindsay.

Mr. Lindsay started off by explaining the importance of lobbyists, and went through an activity that showed us just who lobbyists represent. As I’m sure was surprising for a few of us, they represent everyone! Often we think of oil companies and groups such as AARP in relation to lobbyists. However, Mr. Lindsey explained that this is not always the case, as they represent everyone from nurses, to truck drivers, to government employees and almost every other profession.

Mr. Lindsay then explained the process of making a bill a law, and what is involved in the politics of the legislature. The ever-famous Ernie Chambers came up as being incredibly knowledgeable about the rules, so as to bend them in his favor. Mr. Lindsay talked about the importance of ethics and integrity and ensuring that you are worthy of the trust your constituents put in you. In one case, he described a donor only donating if Mr. Lindsey voted favorably for his company. Ironically, Mr. Lindsay had planned to do so, but was taken aback by his bold and unethical request.

From there, we discussed the differences between a super PAC and regular PACs, and what role they play in national and local politics. One example he used was Hillary Clinton and the massive amounts of money she has received for her campaign through various super PACs.

Ultimately, Mr. Lindsay left us on the note that we have huge potential, and that through lobbying, PACs, and responsible politicking, we can have a successful and fun time at Boys’ State!

Nebraska Government and How it Works

The Unicameral and How it Works

By Andrew Stone, Bataan

To start things off, let’s break down the word unicameral. Actually, the only thing that needs clarification on is the first three letters. Uni: meaning just ‘one.’ But what does that have to do with politics? Simple. Our federal, or national, government is a bicameral system. Two houses. We should all be quite familiar with the workings of that system, so let’s gloss over it. In a unicameral system, only one house runs the show. Much like anything that has existed ever, it has pros and cons.

First, the pros. Benefits of a unicameral system come from its size. With a smaller group, each representative gets a chance to speak on an issue. That’s excellent, as all aspects of the argument can be addressed equally. This also lends to a faster process when there is no push back from any other outside group. For its last, but far from least important, benefit; the opportunity to be bipartisan, or neutral. Countless political arguments are based in party affiliation. Take that away, and you truly have politics based solely in the candidates’ prerogatives, rather than the parties’.

However, no one thing has ever been perfect ever. A unicameral system has to deal with a lot of road blocks. People can divide up the already small house to be deadlocked on an issue for what seems to be an eternity. It’s very bad when bills cannot be passed. Also, when the people are not tied to a party, decisions are truly to the individual. Take, for example, the death penalty. If literally every single person in a representative’s district says that the death penalty should be kept, that representative doesn’t need to vote his or her constituents.

 

State Court System and How it Works

Joseph Hunter, Yorktown

Today, several members of each town attended a meeting with Lincoln-based litigator Steve Gealy. Mr. Gealy explained the state judicial system and his 35 years of success in that system. Topics ranging from jurisdiction to the uses of the English language to critical thinking were discussed.

Mr. Gealy opened by explaining the hierarchy of the Nebraska court system. From the Supreme Court down to the county courts, each one varies in its jurisdiction and power. The Supreme Court is the most powerful court in the State of Nebraska. The Supreme Court is comprised of six Associate Justices and one Chief Justice and is commonly known as the decisions court. One step lower on the food chain are the district courts. Nebraska has 12 judicial districts, which are broken down by population. This means that one district court can have anywhere from 2-16 district court judges. The district courts hear cases on criminal and civil issues. On the bottom of the food chain are the county courts. County courts are tasked with hearing cases involving misdemeanor charges and civil cases valuing amounts less than $52,000. In every courtroom, however, there is a cornucopia of talent and thought.

From the judge to the lawyers to the jury (in some cases), both critical thinking and command of the English language are needed to articulate points. Judges must know what the law says, but often times this is hard to do. The Legislature often writes in such a way that causes there to be a grey area which is left for the lawyers and judges to interpret. This grey area causes for there to be no easy answer, no quick answer, and no clear circumstances for decisions. This requires every person involved in a case to have critical thinking skills in order to come to an answer to a question or to make a decision in a divorce case.

In the end, Mr. Gealy wrapped up by answering several questions over various legal issues such as juvenile crimes, insurance fraud, and the different types of murder charges.

City Government and How it Works

By: James Moseman, Gettysburg

The governing body of a city is made up of the City Council and the Mayor. With Boys’ State, as with many towns, the Mayor is non-voting member and is largely there to help guide the City Council through parliamentary procedure. The Mayor is often considered to be “The Face” of the city.

The role of the City Council is to develop ordinances that will benefit the town’s citizens. Another responsibility is to listen to the citizens of the town and consider their opinions on any matters that may come before the council. City government, or municipal government, is tasked with the day-to-day business of the city, be it putting in a round-a-bout or helping with a special election. The city government is the first rung of support and authority for citizens.

Overall, the city government is the closest to the people of all the levels of government. In saying that, it is vitally important that city governments be comprised of trustworthy, ethical people, who are willing to listen to their constituents always.

Legislature: Day One

By: Michael Mason, Yorktown

As the first day in the legislature closed, officers had been elected from the pool of senators by a coalition of their peers.

The first order of business was to elect a Chaplin to open each legislative meeting with a quick prayer. Devout Catholic Brady Przymus from Belleau Wood won the position. The next order of business was to elect the Sergeant-at-Arms. The Sergeant-at-Arms is an officer charged with keeping the peace within the legislature. For our purposes, he keeps people on task and quiet. John Harkendorff from Bataan won the position. The third position up for grabs was the position of Clerk. The Clerk is tasked with keeping track of the minutes, assisting the councilors with the operation of the computer and projector, and making note of the progress that the legislature has made. Shane Asher of Bunker Hill won the position of Clerk, who during his speech gave a narrative of his experience working as a secretary in an emergency room. The final position voted on was the office of Speaker of the House. After the preliminary election, two candidates remained. In the end, John Koller from Bunker Hill rose above the other competitors and became the Speaker of the House.

With the new officers elected, the drafting of bills can begin, and debates will begin on Wednesday.

School Board and How it Works

By: Bryce Sahs, Yorktown

Being on a School Board is a challenging, non-profit position in one’s community. Members must understand the board’s responsibilities, model effective principles of board governance, and create a collaborative relationship with the main administrating leader of education. Being part of the board comes with great stress and great responsibilities. As Winston Churchill put it, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” The function of a school board is to provide citizens with control over local education. This comes down to the board having to represent all the citizens in the entire school district the board resides.

The main responsibilities a school board deals with are: employing a superintendent, holding him or her responsible for controlling the school district in regards to the state law, identifying and adopting educational goals for the school district, and engaging the community in discussion about future student learning. Board meetings start with a Call to Order (Explains the agenda), announcing an Open Meeting’s Law (Requires that all meetings are open to the public), publicizing the meeting, then doing a Roll Call of Board Members. This is followed by all in attendance reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the fun begins! The agenda of the meeting commences and the staff and student presentations start. After all that concludes, public input is then recognized and considered. Then the Board comes to a final conclusion and enforces it in their school district.