George Mason Students Have Their Voices Heard in Richmond

Courtesy of Rebecca Dooley

18 George Mason University students spent January 18-19 in Richmond lobbying policies written by members of the George Mason chapter of the Roosevelt Institute. The Roosevelt Institute is the largest student-led think tank in the nation, focused on giving students a voice in policy. The three pillars of the George Mason chapter are: policy writing, policy advocacy and issue awareness campaigns. Every year, the entire Roosevelt network holds a policy writing contest, 10 Ideas. George Mason students have published policy proposals at all levels of government including local, state and international.

This year, two Roosevelt sponsored bills have made it beyond introduction into House subcommittees. Danielle Melton’s 10 Ideas policy inspired HB 272, a bill to improve voter registration processing. Melton, a senior Government and International Politics major, is Roosevelt @ Mason’s Vice President and has high hopes for running for office herself one day. Her bill would require a notice of a denial of an application for voter registration be provided to the individual within five days of the denial decision. Furthermore, the bill would allow the registrar to notify such individuals via email or phone (as opposed to traditional mail), and the individual would be permitted to correct any missing information via these methods of communication. “This idea was inspired by the problems I have experienced as a non-partisan voter registration volunteer,” Melton said, “but I know if we can get this bill passed more Virginians will be able to register successfully and vote, and especially underserved populations that are most frequently denied.” HB 272 was introduced by Del. Jennifer Boysko (D-Herndon) and co-patroned by Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church).Courtesy of  Rebecca Dooley

The second bill, HB 1118, was inspired by Jamie Thomas and Rasheda Elsamahi’s 10 Ideas policy. Thomas, a junior Conflict and Resolution major and a Social Work minor, is Roosevelt @ Mason’s Education Policy Director. Elsamahi, a sophomore, is also a Conflict Analysis and Resolution major. HB 1118 would establish the SAT School Day Fund in Virginia, allowing all 11th graders to take one SAT free of charge during the school day. The current $5.6 million budget line would expand access to the test imperative for higher education. 25 other states maintain a similar program and have seen massive increases in the number of students taking the SAT (or the ACT in some cases) and applying and attending college. The bill is being patroned by Schuyler T. VanValkenburg (D-Henrico) and co-patroned by Mark L. Keam (D-Fairfax).Courtesy of Rebecca Dooley

Just before the semester begun, members of Roosevelt @ Mason passionately lobbied for HB 1118, HB 272, and other policies important to students in Roosevelt. The groups met with both Democrats and Republicans and overall received positive feedback, gaining many additional signatures to the bills. Roosevelt @ Mason continues to exemplify the possibility and importance of students becoming involved in policy at all levels of government.

Contact [email protected] for more information about Roosevelt @ Mason, getting involved in policy work, or for further information regarding HB 1118 and HB 272.