Monday, February 24, 2014

Student Learns the Legislative Process in Richmond

by Brenda Bowman, guest blogger

[Brenda Bowman serves as the representative for the Chatham-Blairs District on the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. This article appeared in the Chatham Star Tribune.]

Michaela Bindewald, daughter of Richard and Susan Bindewald of Dry Fork, is a Junior Social Work major at Ferrum College.  In her Social Policies class with Professor West, Michaela is studying about the legislative process and actually advocating for bills being considered currently by legislators.  She has written to all members of the Virginia General Assembly.  One of Michaela's assignments was to track a bill moving through the General Assembly.  A bill Michaela became interested in and supports is Senate Bill 173, presented by Senator Richard Stuart, which allows a court to defer and dismiss a criminal case, other than an act of violence, where the defendant has been diagnosed with autism or an intellectual disability.

When the Bindewalds learned that their supervisor, Brenda Bowman, Chatham-Blairs, was working during the 2014 General Assembly Session in Richmond, Michaela contacted Ms. Bowman and asked if she could visit her at the General Assembly to learn more about the process for this piece of legislation.

Michaela and her mother came to Richmond on Wednesday, February 12th, and interviewed Bowman about her work at the General Assembly and learned about every step that the bill has taken since being introduced.  The legislators were in session and Michaela was not able to meet with Senator Stuart but Bowman took Michaela and her mother to Senator Stuart's office and they were able to discuss the bill with Senator Stuart's Legislative Assistant.

At the time of Michaela's visit, the bill had made it out of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee and had passed in the Senate with a vote of 35-5.  It is now before the House of Delegates and has been assigned to the Criminal Law Subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice Committee.

Bowman also took Michaela and her mother to visit the office of Delegate Charles Poindexter, who represents the district in which Ferrum College is located.

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