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From a YES student: Our very own Capitol Girl

March 4, 2010

Laraba Sabtah is a YES student from Bauchi State, Nigeria. Laraba has been living in Waukee and attending Waukee High School this year through the U.S. State Department’s Youth Exchange and Study Program.

On Feb. 10, Laraba spent the day at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines as part of a program called Capitol Girls. She explains here:

Laraba with Representative Berry

Hello everyone,

I’m so happy to write about the Capitol Girls program, which is important and which I believe will help me become a better person in life. I am happy and excited to be a Capitol Girls member and to have the opportunity to meet people I never thought or dreamed I would meet (much less talk to!).

Now that I have had this opportunity, what message will I have for all the YES7 students and other people who will benefit from this? This is a great question I have to ask my self.

First of all, what is Capitol Girls? It’s a program that lets high school girls in learn about the workings of the Iowa legislature. We had the opportunity to “shadow” a woman legislator and learn about how state laws and budgets are developed and passed. This program was created in another state, and Iowa just started participating this year. With the grace of God, I was among the first to participate in the program. And you know what? Everything went perfect! It also was a lot of fun because I got to talk to the senators and representatives.

When I first arrived at the Lucas Building in Des Moines, I was thinking it wasn’t going to be very much fun, but I was wrong because each and every one of the girls involved learned a lot of things about the legislative process by the end of the day.

The other girls and I were able to go into the House and Senate chambers, and we were introduced to the congressmen. It was really wonderful seeing ourselves in places we had never been before.

Learning how a bill becomes a law

Before that, we were lectured on many things like the legislative processes (which I believe those YES students who were or are now in American Government classes know).

We were told about how if a bill is introduced by a representative, it must follow a process and if passed, it will be sent to the members in the other legislative chamber where the same process is repeated. And the bill and the language have to be in the same form from both the chambers before being sent to the governor.

Here is how a bill becomes a law…

Introduction: After the draft is completed by the legislative services agency, it is then returned to the sponsor for review and filed with the Secretary of the Senate or Chief Clerk of the House, who assigns the bill a number. After that, the president of the Senate or Speaker of the House assigns the bill to a standing committee for review.

Standing committee: The standing committee is a group of legislators chosen by the leaders of each chamber (House and Senate) to examine all bills relating to specific subject area. When a bill is assigned to the committee, the committee assigns a subcommittee; the subcommittee is normally composed of the three members of the standing committee. They review the bill in detail and deliver their conclusion to the full committee. The full committee may recommend to pass the bill or not, to pass it with and amendment, to refer it to another committee of study, to postpone the bill indefinitely, or send it to the floor for a debate with a recommendation.

Calendar: Report of the committee recommendation is sent to the Secretary of the Senate or Chief Clerk of the House, who places the bill on a regular calendar with the date that the bill is eligible to be debated. The bills that are considered most important may be brought to the chamber for consideration ahead of other bills listed on the calendar. The majority leader is responsible for deciding which bills on the calendar will be debated.

The process goes into other steps I won’t be able to explain, but I will list them all here… After the calendar, it goes to the debate. After that, it goes to second passage, followed by the conference committee, and then to the governor.

Governor review: The bill must be reviewed by the governor, and he makes a final decision on all the bills. He only has three actions: to sign the bill, veto the bill or take no action. The legislature can override a governor’s veto with two-thirds of the members of each chamber voting for passing the bill a second time. If during that time, the governor does not sign or veto the bill, it becomes a law after three calendar days (excluding Sunday).

I hope you all enjoyed reading my experiences from the capitol and Capitol Girls program. Here are some pictures from the day:

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