The goal of the Committee Hearing is to conduct a civil and organized legislative hearing mirroring those held in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.
Students have been preparing for the Committee Hearings since the first day of class through debate of resolutions and the use of parliamentary procedure. They have evaluated their political views, become informed on a variety of issues and created bills that propose changes in how we should live together. During the committee hearings they have a chance to apply the knowledge and skills they have been gaining throughout the first weeks of the semester.
In the lead up to the Committee Hearings, the Rules Committee plays a critical role in organizing the logistics of assigning students, Committee Chairs, and bills to each committee. Teachers provide a framework for making these choices, but at this point student leaders make all of the decisions of consequence. This creates an atmosphere of independence and accountability within the student body. Students truly have ownership of this important event.
Each committee is composed of a mix of students from all participating class sections, with majority and minority membership proportional to the legislature as a whole. The task of each committee is to discuss, amend, and vote on each assigned bill. First each bill is presented by the bill sponsor, then there is an opportunity for questions from the committee as well as testimony from experts and time for public comment. This is followed by debate among the committee members and possible amendment if there is agreement that the bill requires modification.
Each committee has two Charis, one from the majority party and one from the minority party. The role of these Committee Chairs cannot be overstated. They are responsible for establishing the agenda for the hearing and allotting discussion time to each bill. They also maintain decorum and enforce the use of civil discourse, while encouraging a fair hearing of arguments for and against the bill and the participation of all members. These students spend an entire day facilitating debate and discussion of controversial issues among their peers, without any intervention from teachers or other adults. The poise and confidence of these students and the focused and serious engagement of their committee members is incredible to witness.