Organization gives students a chance to learn about creating new laws
By Brandi Bottalico Mar 7, 2016 1

Derrick Wood is a Democrat. Dylan Wood is a Republican.

The twins don’t agree on politics. But both Hood College juniors are passionate about the Maryland Student Legislature, which is a nonprofit organization that students from colleges throughout Maryland can participate in to research, write and debate issues in a simulation of the state’s General Assembly.

“Not every state has this type of legislative program,” Derrick said. “It’s once in a lifetime.”

Derrick debated legalizing prostitution in Maryland before dozens of other college students Sunday afternoon.

Dylan stood up several times to question his stance.

Derrick responded every time, denying his brother the chance to speak.

About 60 members from seven colleges participated in the student legislature’s 2016 Spring Leadership Training Institute and Interim Assembly over the weekend.

The resolution presented before the student assembly delegates on prostitution in Maryland was written by Derrick Wood and had passed with 16 affirmative votes and 15 negative before the student governor Maria Sofia, a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University, vetoed it.

The resolution will be revisited at the end of April at the 27th Annual Session, which is a culmination of the Maryland Student Legislature and its flagship event that is held at the House and Senate chambers in the State House in Annapolis.

The delegates come up with ideas for resolutions that think the legislations should consider, like the one Derrick wrote, or mirror legislation Maryland delegates are considering.

Dylan, who is Sofia’s lieutenant governor, said although he didn’t support his brother’s bill, he liked that it brought the issue of prostitution to light because it’s something that’s not commonly looked into. He was also glad for his brother to get his first bill passed.

Dylan would like to go into lobbying after graduation and Derrick would like to go into the Navy and work in intelligence.

They said the program teaches students how the Maryland General Assembly works first hand.

University of Maryland student and the Maryland Student Legislature speaker Christopher Keosian said the program gives students an advantage to understanding the legislative process.

“It’s unlike anything else to be a college student in an organization that replicates the Maryland General Assembly so exactly,” he said.

Keosian had stepped off from the dais Sunday afternoon to argue for his own resolution in support of a third Bay Bridge span, which mirror’s Senate Bill 56 that Keosian has worked on as an intern for Sen. James Matthias, he said.

During his debate Keosian apologized for being so passionate about the subject.

“I live on the Eastern Shore and care very deeply about the Eastern Shore,” he said as his bill was displayed to the rest of the delegation on a projector. “I want to make sure that there is an Eastern Shore to go back to.”

His bill suggested temporarily restoring toll charges to what they were previous to Gov. Larry Hogan’s reduction last year in order to fund a study into building a third bay bridge.

Other subjects the delegation considered included teaching evolution and creationism in primary and secondary education and adding computer science to the high school curriculum, among others.

The bill passed and was one of about 10 that Sofia signed after the proceedings. After a bill is signed by the Maryland Student Legislature governor, it gets sent to delegates in the Maryland General Assembly so they can see what the students support and what ideas they have for legislation.

After the governor’s signing ceremony, Sofia said a few words. She said she was happy with the interaction that the delegation had during the assembly and was happy to hear new members present their bills. The senior also expressed sadness that this was her last interim session as she will be graduating.

“It’s really hard to believe it’s coming to an end,” Sofia said.

Sofia said after graduation she will be working on campaigns.

Dylan announced his plans to run for governor of the organization. And after several other campaign announcements, Derrick said in a surprise announcement that he also plans to run for governor.

Noise from the delegation spread throughout the auditorium.

“We were all shocked,” Dylan said. “I wasn’t even expecting it.”

But he said it’s soothing knowing he’s running against his brother because if his brother wins then he will take his brother’s position as Delegation Chair Person.

“I guess it’s a win-win situation,” he said.