Virginia General Assembly Considers Bills Pitched by Students


By Isabella LaMagdeleine, Staff Writer

Danielle Melton, Jamie Thomas, Rasheda Elsamahi, and Andrew Millin, all members of the Mason chapter of the think tank The Roosevelt Institute, pitched legislation to members of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates that were introduced as bills to the state legislature over winter break.

Chosen from a number of policy issues considered important to the institute, the issues represented in the students’ legislation range from the SATs to voting registration to interrogation of those in police custody. On Thursday, Jan. 18 and Friday, Jan. 19, the group traveled to Richmond to lobby for their bills, which have since been formally introduced to the general assembly and sent to committee.

Danielle Melton, a senior Government and International Politics major, introduced a bill that requires voter registrars to notify rejected voting applicants within five business days by utilizing the person’s phone and email. It became HB 272 and was introduced into the House by Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-86th District.

Melton said of her bill, “Right now, if you don’t have the correct address, there is no way to contact you if you were denied, and oftentimes, students still think they are waiting for their voter registration card, in e-mail, and it’ll come, and there’s no reason to worry.” Her bill is currently tabled, meaning that final action on the bill is suspended. However, Joe Russell, Political Director at Roosevelt expects “that it will be taken off the table either this week or next.

Jamie Thomas and Rasheda Elsamahi, junior and sophomore Conflict Analysis and Resolution majors, also wrote a policy proposal that eventually became the bill HB 1118. In the proposed legislation, the SAT would be administered during the regular school day for all juniors in Virginia public high schools, free of charge.

Elsamahi said of her bill, “In taking the SATs, college information is more accessible, and accessing financial information about universities is more accessible, and it starts the thinking process, helps you prepare. The exams are early Saturday mornings, they’re expensive, and it’s not easy to get to your testing site always.”

The legislation was primarily sponsored by Del. VanValkenburg, D-72nd District, and co-sponsored by Del. Keam, D-35th District, and Del. Guzman, D-31st District. The bill is still currently in subcommittee.

Finally, Andrew Millin, a junior Conflict Analysis and Resolution major, developed a bill that became SB 734. Millin’s bill creates protection for those in police custody during the interrogation process, and also requires interrogations to be recorded. Sponsored by Del. McClellan, D-9th District, the bill’s status was “Failed to Report” as of Jan. 17, 2018, meaning the bill’s designated committee has declined to bring a vote to the full legislature.

The Roosevelt Institute is a nationally recognized think tank named after Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. It is the nonprofit partner to Roosevelt’s presidential library, which was the first presidential library in the country, and the only one that was ever used by a sitting president. The think tank brings together notable individuals from a large variety of disciplines in order to get the best policy that they hope will one day shape the world. Roosevelt@Mason, Mason’s chapter, focuses on writing and advocating policy, and raising awareness of important issues.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Thompson