By: Logan Welshons
National Issues Forum is a developing program that is still getting on it’s feet, but is growing each year. It is similar to the set up of the legislature, but with some key differences. We will follow the journey of Proposal #159 to see how NIF works from the inside.
Proposal #159’s purpose was to repeal or reform the Patriot Act to protect the rights and liberties of Americans. The debate began in a small committee. Delegates debate in the pro and con format, speakers alternating between delegates for and against the proposal. The proposal then is voted on based on a ranking system. Delegates in the committee rank the proposal based on feasibility, creativity, national importance, evidence of research, and ability to be debated. The categories are ranked 1 through 4, 1 being the best. This is to weed out the weaker proposals so the strongest ones can be debated by all the delegates in NIF at the General Assembly. Proposal #159 passed through the first committee with little opposition.
The proposal was then ready to be debated in the second committee. This committee is a combination of two of the first committees and it debates the proposals that have already passed in the same way as in first committee. The debate goes more in depth, as there are more delegates to voice their opinions. Proposal #159 also passed very well through the second committee and was ready to move on.
Once a proposal passes both committees, it is ready to be debated by all NIF delegates in General Assembly. Proposal #159 came up second on the docket, and the author started with a well-educated opening statement. After that, the floor is open to 10 minutes of non-debatable questions to clarify the proposal before debate. Once that time has elapsed, debate begins. The speakers again alternate between pros and cons. There was much debate on Proposal #159. First, there was some debate against the proposal that brought doubt in some people’s minds. Some delegates didn’t feel like the proposal did enough because the author stressed that he wasn’t trying to get rid of the Patriot Act, he only wanted the government agencies to be more transparent. Other delegates questioned whether the proposal will actually protect citizens, or if it will even aid the terrorists if we reform the act. But there was strong debate supporting the proposal. Many delegates felt like the Patriot Act, and agencies like the CIA and NSA impeded on their rights, and they wanted justice. They felt violated that the government could take personal information from a person without notifying them. A strong sense of personal freedom and liberty was expressed during the debate. The proposal came to a traditional vote to determine whether or not it would be signed in, and Proposal #159 passed by a landslide: 93-13.
The format and setup of NIF is very impressive. The difference in style of debate helped bring out all different points of view equally. The two committee system before the General Assembly also helped to really highlight the good proposals. Only the best proposals with great research, thought, and depth made it through for full debate. This made for an interesting, productive, and well-polished debate that rivaled even the great Upper Legislature at the Capital. NIF is moving in the right direction, and is on track to define itself as a powerful and important place of debate in future Youth in Government conventions.