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Texas secedes (but only at Boys State)

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, June 24, 2017
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Boys State

BOYS STATE – Decatur seniors Alec Uselton, Charlie Doubrava and Ty Watson, pictured here with American Legion member and Denton County Assistant District Attorney Forest Beadle, participated in Texas Boys State June 11-15. Submitted photo

Standing in the state capitol building, Decatur senior Ty Watson made the case for Texas independence.

“Someone drew up the legislation and the Speaker of the House asked me to present it. I read the Declaration of Independence,” Watson recalled. “It was nerve-racking.”

The legislation won approval from the rest of the lawmakers during the Texas Boys State session June 11-15 in Austin.

Watson and fellow Decatur seniors Charlie Doubrava and Alec Uselton attended the American Legion’s participatory program that allows students to become part of the state, county or local government.

The trio were among 1,100 students from across the state to take part in this year’s session. Arthur McNitzky, American Legion Post 71 in Denton, selected the three Decatur seniors for this year’s event.

“It was a great experience, looking back. I had never heard of Boys State and had no idea what to expect,” Doubrava said. “The motto is learn by doing.

“It’s very eye-opening getting to see how government works with the different levels.”

The students were divided up into two political parties – Federalist or Nationalist. Uselton and Doubrava were Nationalists and Watson was a Federalist.

Students were also placed into one of four districts that were subdivided into counties and cities.

“Each district had about 300 kids,” Doubrava said.

All three campaigned for posts. Watson became the Federalist Whip. Doubrava earned a spot in the House of Representatives. Uselton bid for a State Board of Education spot and County Court of Law judge but didn’t get elected.

“It was more about giving speeches and talking in front of people,” Uselton said. “You’d try to say something funny to get elected, and that you wanted to change this and that.”

With a diverse group of students from all across the state and with varying political views, Doubrava pointed out it was tricky to campaign.

“You had to be careful of what you said,” Doubrava said. “The audience could love you or bash you.”

Like the Texas legislators that just finished regular session before they arrived at the Capitol, the students had to govern, draw up legislation and pass it. For them it was at a much accelerated pace.

“The whole process of 18 months was squashed into a week,” Doubrava explained.

Though in different parties, Watson and Doubrava found themselves together on the agriculture and natural resources committee. The two drew up bi-partisan legislation that would allow farmers to use filtered grey water for crops. The bill, which offered farmers tax breaks for the initiative, passed.

“We had to present it to the whole House and then it went to the Senate,” Watson said.

The bill was one of the record 19 passed during the Texas Boys State session.

“Previously, they’d only passed 13. We were the first to pass 19 and secede,” Uselton said.

Uselton said secession was the buzz throughout the week leading up to the vote. Though it passed overwhelmingly, the trio recognized the irony and that it wasn’t popular with the American Legion.

“The Legioneers were not real happy because they served the U.S. military,” Watson said.

Doubrava added: “They frowned upon the secession, but they understood we were trying to do something that has never been done.”

The trio had differing opinions on the practicality of the decision.

“We didn’t give any specifics on military or the economy,” Doubrava said. “The U.S. is more dependent on Texas than Texas on the U.S.”

Doubrava and Uselton reserved doubts due to the military and other needs. Watson said it may be possible for Texas to thrive.

The three did agree it was a great experience and encourage other students to take part in the program in the future.

“The biggest thing is seeing how the Texas government works,” Watson said. “You can talk about government in class. Here you get to see how it works.

“You see why there’s such gridlock. It’s very hard to present a bill. People can interject a motion and add amendments. You see why it’s so hard to get anything passed.”

Weekend Legislators

WEEKEND LEGISLATORS – Alec Uselton, Ty Watson and Charlie Doubrava helped form legislation as part of Texas Boys State. Submitted photo

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