This previous week, two SLO FFA members, Amber Bjerre and Luke O’Leary, attended the Sacramento Leadership Experience in our state’s capitol, along with 60 other senior FFA members from across California. This conference simulated the state government, making our SLO FFA members Senator Bjerre and Assembly Member O’Leary.
Here, all Senators and Assembly Members had the opportunity to get sworn in in the Senate Chambers.
On Tuesday, the Senate and Assembly learned about how an idea gets processed into a bill, and finally becomes a law, ending in a signature or a veto from the Governor. Later that day, each attendee got sworn in at the Capitol Building, in the Senate Chambers. This was conducted by Senator Galgiani and Assembly Members Dodd and Gallagher. While there, we also learned about the history of the Capitol Building, and heard from the President pro Tempore of the California State Senate, Kevin de Leon. Later that evening, we went on “Insta-Hunt Challenge” to learn more about the geography of Sacramento. During meals that day, we also heard from Senator Anthony Cannella from District 12 and Secretary of State, Alex Padilla.
SLO FFA members met with Assembly Member katcho Achadjian, from our district of San Luis Obispo County.
The following day, we had the opportunity to learn from industry leaders about issues facing the agriculture industry. These individuals included Ms. Blattler, from the Tulare City Farm Bureau, who discussed water, Ms. Mayfield, from Vivayic and the American Farm Bureau, who discussed ethics, Mr. Muller, from Full Belly Farms, who discussed food, and Mr. Aschwanden, from the California Agriculture Teachers Association, who discussed education. We also met with the Senators and Assembly Members from our own district of San Luis Obispo County, Assembly Member Katcho Achadjian and Senator Bill Monning. Later that night, we headed back to the Capitol Hills Plaza to introduce the bills we were assigned to. Senator Bjerre discussed animal confinement in the agriculture omnibus bill, while Assembly Member O’Leary talked about a carbon farming incentive in the environment omnibus bill. We heard from Assembly Member Holden, from District 41, Assembly Member Gallagher, who was a previous FFA member, from District 3 and Mr. Garner, part of West Coast Advisors during meals on Wednesday.
Branching across party lines and chambers, SLO FFA members created new friendships and restored old ones throughout this conference.
Thursday allowed the attendees to learn more about each omnibus bill, including agriculture, environment, food and education. Each Legislative Counselor provided Senators and Assembly Members with buckets of resources to learn more about every section of every bill. We also learned more about legislation and had our legislative committee hearings, which were held in the actual Senate and Assembly committee rooms. We had the opportunity to have a working dinner on Thursday evening, which ended in a recap of all four omnibus bills. Throughout Thursday, Dr. McCabe, the California FFA State Advisor and part of the California Department of Education and Mr. Harry, a former FFA member and part of the Civil Justice Association of California spoke to us throughout meals.
Assembly Member O’Leary shows his passion for agriculture and food while speaking about both omnibus bills in the Assembly Committee room.
The fourth and final day of SLE was the pinnacle of the entire conference. We heard from Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross, and how she advocates for the agriculture each day. We continued with independent research throughout the day, and finally walked to the Capitol Building in the rain to debate, amend and process two omnibus bills each in the Senate and Assembly Chambers. This was by far the most incredible experience while at SLE, as it was truly a culmination of our hard work and dedication to each issue that we were faced with and how we could, as a legislation, overcome them.
In the Senate Chambers, Senator Bjerre discussed issues within environment and education omnibus bills, both of which passed through the Senate and Assembly.
Each day, we conducted reflections around the Capitol building, in the park. As we look back on this previous week, we continue to reflect on every opportunity we have had in the FFA and in our daily lives. We truly have come to realize that being an American is a blessing that has come from years of others’ tireless work. We have been inspired by this conference and the individuals we have grown within the past week, and are excited to use all that we have learned throughout the rest of our lives as American citizens.