Seventeen-year-old Emmet Hedin wasted no time Thursday setting out his agenda as Minnesota’s governor.

Top on his list: increased taxes on high-income earners and legalizing same-sex marriage.

“This is what we want to do to create a prosperous future for Minnesotans,” the governor said. “All Minnesotans should be accepted for who they are.”

Of course, Hedin is only governor for two days, after he was elected by fellow students participating in the 50th annual Model Legislature program hosted at Winona State University’s Tau Center. The program brings together area middle-, high-school and college students who participate in a mock legislative session, moving bills through committee, then the House and Senate floor before reaching Hedin’s desk to be signed or vetoed.

The program celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, acknowledged during an opening ceremony that included speeches from Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and WSU President Scott Olson, and a declaration read by Winona Mayor Jerry Miller.

One of the youngest participants in this year’s Model Legislature was Winona Middle School sixth-grader Andrew Schmidt, one of the pages — meaning he spent most of Thursday passing messages along. It was his first year participating and so far had enjoyed the experience.

“It’s fun,” he said. “My brother did it before me.”

Just like in the real Legislature, there was plenty of wheeling and dealing.

By Thursday afternoon, legislators were lobbying Hedin and fellow lawmakers for support on their bills, sending pages running to and from committees and the mock governor’s office with official messages.

“It’s one of the great things of Model Legislature,” said Winona Senior High School student Madeline Fogarty. “We get caught up in the legislative process and do just what actual politicians do.”

This is Fogarty’s second year in Model Legislature; last year she was a page.

“There are very few differences,” she said. “We follow a lot of the same rules. It’s a great way for people to know how their government works.”

That’s one of the things that keeps bringing Hedin back to Model Legislature. It’s his fifth year participating, and he said it’s always something he has enjoyed.

“It’s about engaging in government in a way we can’t in school,” Hedin said. “This is definitely a unique opportunity.”

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