Congratulations to all our students, parents, club advisors, YMCA staff, and volunteers on a successful round of District Conferences! Check out the image carousel below for pictures from our Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Midland events. Over 2,500 students participated in these November 11 and 18 competitions!
By: Aubrey Burgess
Jake Foster, an 11th grade delegate from Jack C. Hays High School, proposed an act relating to animal adoption procedures. The act would enforce background checks that will check for past and current illnesses, financial status, and past violence charges in order to protect the pet from harm. The bill was passed.
The Department of Animal Adoption in Austin, Texas, currently requires a photo ID, $75, and a visitor profile that requires a home address, phone number, and the amount of people in the family that is adopting the animal.
“Animals have done so much for us so we should help protect them through these background checks,” Foster said.
This is Foster’s first year in Youth & Government; he started because his teacher ran his school chapter and asked him to be on the Legislative team.
“I’ve never been one to do things outside of school,” said Foster, “so when I heard about Youth & Government I thought ‘wow, that sounds like a really good opportunity to do something new.’”
Foster decided to write his bill about animal adoption because animal welfare has always been a big passion of his.
“I think that the fact that animals face harm and cannot control that is really a shame,” he said.
The bill says that livestock and small animals like rodents are not required to follow this process.
“Small animals can be used for experiments and do not want to get in the way of scientific advancement,” Foster said.
According to the bill, “If any shelter or pet trader is found not following this procedure, they will be charged $2500.”
The bill would go into effect in the next business year to help the shelters adjust to the change. In addition, all laws that are conflicting with this bill will be repealed.
Ricky Rosario opposed the bill, saying “Therapeutic animals are needed by people with illnesses such as bipolar disorder and they will love and care for those animals just as much as others would.”
Foster responded saying, “if the bipolar person has a doctor tell them that they are well enough to get a pet they may.”
Jesse Williams (11) said that he is for this bill because it “makes sure that the animal lives a peaceful life.” Dylan Cousins said that this bill will help pets, “all arguments against it will be invalid.”
One amendment, stated by Julia Mendoza, 12, suggested that “line seven should be changed to domesticated animal adoptions.” Fosters agreed, saying that the clarification of the bill, changing the word “animal” to “domestic animals,” was helpful.
By: Camille Pfister
With a new conference came a new schedule, school, and guide book. The 2017 District Youth & Government Conference was moved from Austin High School to Hays High School, and this move required a new guide book. This 26-page book was filled with the large scale schedule, room numbers, candidates for office, a roster, legislative bills, and state affairs proposals. Most sections received additional packets and papers.
Some delegates found this information confusing. “When I was looking at it I needed to find out where I could find where each person was for Judicial. It also would have been helpful if I could have known which room every person was in for legislative,” Rachel King, a sophomore at Dripping Springs High School, said.
Not all Youth and Government students found the book confusing, though. “I’ve been only looking at the Trial Court Schedule, just because we have to know what time we have to start our Mock Trial,” Crystal Romero, a junior at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders High School, said. “I feel like According to some delegates, there is room for improvement. “Maybe they could have divided it up into sections, a separate book for each section… so that you could have everything you needed, everything organized, and geared to each person’s needs,” King said. “I feel like this packet has everything you need… so honestly I don’t think I’d change anything,” Romero said. [the large packet] is a good thing because it allows everyone to be informed.”
According to some delegates, there is room for improvement. “Maybe they could have divided it up into sections, a separate book for each section… so that you could have everything you needed, everything organized, and geared to each person’s needs,” King said.
“I feel like this packet has everything you need… so honestly I don’t think I’d change anything,” Romero said.
By: Camille Pfister
Kayla Frazier, a junior at Cedar Park High School student, proposed a bill to remove all taxes on feminine hygiene products. Ultimately the bill passed. According to “The ‘tampon tax,’ explained,” published by The Washington Post, 43 out of 50 states tax tampons and other feminine hygiene products. Currently, these products are taxed as luxury items, and people have since named this tax the ‘tampon tax’.
“It would be beneficial for all women if they didn’t have to pay that tax,” Frazier said. “That’s a price women shouldn’t have to pay.” More than fifteen percent of people in Texas live in poverty, but the average price of feminine products is seven dollars – without tax.
During this debate, students stood to voice their support or opposition to this bill, through their own perspectives and ideas. “I am for this bill because the tax does add up and I feel it is unfair that it should be taxed as a luxury product when we don’t have a choice in the matter,” Ashleigh Mccoy, a senior Dripping Springs High School delegate who supports the bill, said.
However, Marsha Madrigal, a delegate from Box Tech High School in opposition of the bill, said “If it’s just one product I don’t think it’s going to make that big of a deal to put a tax on it.”
According to “Why ‘tampon tax’ outrage is misguided,” published by the Chicago Tribune, the ‘tampon tax’ helps billionaires more than it helps low income families. “When you strip taxes from tampons or groceries, you relieve not just poor students and families from paying them. You’re also giving a break to billionares,” said the article.
To help block the ‘tampon tax’, Change.org has created a petition to get rid of the tampon tax, which 66,514 people have signed; the movement has spread all over the country. According to “Tampon Taxes: Do Feminine Hygiene Products Deserve a Sales Tax Exemption?” published by Tax Foundation, tampons and other feminine hygiene products are taxed with a sales tax, which means they are not considered necessities. The debate is whether these products should be considered necessities or not. Frazier got the chance to defend her bill, and the debate went on.
“It is a necessity, and I really … think, no matter your income, you shouldn’t have to pay it,” Frazier said. “You’re basically telling women these products are luxury, and they’re not,” Frazier said. “This affects women and lower income families … which is why I urge you to support this bill.”
By Athena McCloud
Texas Youth and Government legislation at the district conference passed the bill for the regulation of service animals by Deziree Guerra, Junior at Sam Houston High School.
The bill was passed by the entire committee with only few revisions.
The bill would create a regulation that would require a person with a disability to purchase a patch for their service animal that shows they are approved by the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act. This would be more rigorous regulation that would enhance the rules already in place for a handler to take the service animal into public facilities.
“I was trying to get my social security card because my mother had lost mine, and I noticed there were a few service animals in the building. And a couple of them were not acting to bar. Which made me question it and do more research into the topic.,” Said Guerra. “Imposter service animals must be stopped.”
According to the article “Fake Service Dogs: A shame .. And Crime,” a service animal is a dog or miniature horse that has completed special training so that they can assist their handler with actions they cannot do themselves.
The article “Emotional Support Animals Vs. Service Animals: The Facts” by Rita DiNunzio says that service animals are completely different from therapy or emotional support animals. They are appointed by a physician and are used to help with both physical and mental illnesses, but they do not have the same protection as a service dog.
Additionally, it is starting to become common that individuals are making their dogs into imposters service animals. Which according to “Four-legged Imposters Give Service Dog Owner a Pause” by Lisa Napoli a fake service dog is easily recognized because of two basic facts. One that service dogs are highly trained individuals that are specifically trained to do certain activities for the owner. Second, their behavior – most imposters act wild and vicious.
Others want the rules to stay the same because they believe one should not have to justify why they have a service dog. Some feel uncomfortable sharing why they have a service dog because they feel they may be judged for disclaiming having a disability or illness.
“No one should need to justify their service dog,” said Doran Pedahzur, a Junior at the Ann Richards School.
Imposters are why Guerra decided to create a bill to help regulate service dogs. There are two main reasons why regulations on service animals will help those that actually need them. One reason is that these imposters are giving service dogs a bad name, according to the article by Napoli. The second reason is that these imposters are not trained to control their aggressive actions when around others.
For example in the article “These 19 states are cracking down on fake service dogs” by Michael Ollove, wrote about an experience that Chris Slavin, a handler of service animal had gone through. She was in an elevator when a lady walked in with her teacup poodle in her purse. The doors had closed when the poodle saw Slavin’s service dog, Earle and then the poodle jumped at Earle biting his snout. Making Earle bleed on to the floor and the woman lied saying that the poodle was her service dog, but soon after she admitted she just wanted to bring her into the building.
Although Guerra’s plan is to incorporate a patch to help regulate service animals, as the committee discussed the problems they brought up one fact. The badges can be copied and sold to those same imposters.
By Caden Zeigler
During the 2017 Youth and Government District Conference, several students recounted interesting and controversial bills that were proposed. Not all of these bills were centered around current events, but some were rather methods of inspiring thoughtful and sometimes comedic debate.
“The most interesting bill I’ve seen was at state last year in my committee room,” Emma Cook of the Jack C Hays delegation said, “there was a bill to cut all of the rapists’ d*cks off.” The bill didn’t pass, and Emma posed the question, “what about female rapists?… We can’t really cut their d*cks of.” Jokingly, Cook offered the solution of cutting off their entire lower body. “It’s close enough,” she said.
Multiple people mentioned a bill proposed by Bret Johnson, that replaces all names with a specific 10 digit number set. “He says it’s more individualistic,” said Cook, “because there are… 20 thousand people named John.” The bill wasn’t passed at first, but Bret called for a revote and it was.
Bri Branscomb, junior at the Leander delegation, said that “last year, there was a guy who tried to legalize public nudity… everywhere.” She did not know if it got passed at state, “but it got passed at our district” Branscom says “he compared people not wanting to see public nudity to people not wanting their children to see black people during the Jim Crow period.” Branscomb put an amendment on it that “nudity can only be allowed in certain areas… but it can’t be close to a school.”
“He calls it ‘banime’,” Branscomb says, “this year there is a kid who wants to ban all forms of anime.” The bill still passed, though Branscomb did not vote to pass it.
Joshua Skadberg of the Jack C Hays delegation, author of “banime,” defines anime as “a Japanese style of motion-picture animation, characterized by highly stylized, colorful art, futuristic settings, violence, and sexuality.”
His bill states that any “weeaboo” who is seen watching “anime, reading manga, or having possession of anime merchandise shall be… fined $200, doubling every repeated offense to a max of $6400.” Later in the bill, Skadberg defines a weeaboo as “ a non Japanese person who basically denounces their own culture and calls themselves Japanese. They try to learn japanese through the anime they watch and usually end up pronouncing it wrong and looking like a complete idiot.”
“When you get a bill like ‘banime’ it’s just fun cause nobody is actually like usper for against it,” Bri Branscomb says, “so it’s just a fun bill to debate because no one takes it seriously.”
By: Nettie Comerford
Freshmen Maria Noonan, Annabel Glass, and Angelica Monrreal from the Ann Richards School Delegation proposed a bill to provide better mental health services to veterans that passed unanimously in the State Affairs forum this afternoon. The bill addresses the need to better educate health professionals in the field, and for more efficient access to help by shortening the wait list for Veterans to receive help from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
“In 2014 a study showed that 25% of active duty members showed signs of mental health problems, and this is not a rare or uncommon issue. These mental health issues are hindering active duty members and veterans from transitioning into civilian life.” Monrreal said. According to “Troubling Veteran Mental Health Facts and Statistics that Need to be Addressed,” published on March 25, 2016 by National Veterans Foundation, “A study conducted by the the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that only 50% of Veterans who need mental health services will actually receive them.” Of the people who receive mental help, “Only 40% of veterans who screen positive for serious emotional problems seek help from a mental health professional and only 30% of veterans who screen positive receive help from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.” This is in part due to the fear that many Veterans have about asking for mental help.
Another factor is the long wait list to receive help from Veteran Affairs. “The main issue with the Veteran Affairs is the waiting list. Veterans are supposed to see a doctor within 14 days after paperwork is accepted, but many veterans are being waitlisted for an upwards of 150 days,” Glass said. Noonan believes there is a way to cut the long wait. “One Veteran Affairs has approximately $800,000 that is not being used but can be accessed. If they put the money to hiring more employees or using more viable resources, the long wait time can be resolved,” Noonan said. According to Monrreal, without mental help, veterans financially suffer. “These statistics are following active members and veterans into normal civilian life, showing that veterans between ages 18 to 34 are most likely to live under the poverty line than any other group,” Monrreal said.
Junior delegate Carlos Carroll is a con speaker for the bill; he believes the bill does not solve the root of the problem and that the real issue is beyond the waitlists. “What actually goes on in Veteran Affairs is not the lack of staff or the lack of doctors,” he said. “It’s that within the Veteran Affairs organization there’s a culture of … silence for the employees and doctors there. If they speak out against the bureaucratic policies of the veterans affairs, they will get punished.”
Senior delegate Julie Apagya-Bonney is a pro speaker for the bill, and believes this bill will tackle multiple issues. “I believe that with the implementation of this proposal we can not only educate students and give them the opportunities to get access to real life training which they can use for their later on professions, but we’re also helping veterans who actually need access to this care,” Apagya-Bonney said. “It’s really admirable of the proposal officers to create such a system in which we can do both of these things at the same time.”
By: Aubrey Burgess
Jesse Williams, junior, who is part of the Leander High School Delegation, proposed bill 129 which argued that regulations need to be placed on opioid prescriptions in Texas. The bill was not passed.
Bill 129 states, “a committee of physicians and pharmacists will oversee the prescribing of opioid drugs and will receive the ability to see all monthly prescription records of hospitals in Texas, all prescriptions over 50 MME will be reported to the committee with a reason for the dosage, and all prescriptions over 90 MME will be directly accessed by the committee to make sure that that is what the patient needs.”
Since 1999, opioid sales through a prescription have quadrupled, according to the Atlantic. Currently, the law permits the prescribing of opioid medication for chronic pain patients. This law was put in place because to ensure patients who were prescribed the medication were able to obtain it.
To enforce the bill Williams wrote, “Any people or persons found not complying will be charged with dealing schedule ll drugs.”
The dealings of those drugs would result in up to 20 years of prison for 50 MME and up to life in prison for 90 MME if the illegally prescribed drugs caused any harm to others.
Emily Ramirez, sophomore, spoke against the bill.
“I am against this proposal because who is supposed to monitor who is on the committee?” Ramirez said.
Dylan Cousins, junior, agreed with Ramirez.
“I am in favor of this bill but not the process to get there,” Cousins said.
“To be completely honest,” said Williams, “I feel like the 3 people who talked opposition to my bill didn’t understand what a committee was or how a committee works. They believed it would be a small number of people, when it would only be a small number of people making the laws and then there would be workers helping in different sections. As well they were confused when I said doctors would be on it, when I said pharmacists and people who understand how it works.”
Williams said that there was a “massive cut down on all of our times” causing him to be less prepared, which could’ve made a difference on his performance.
No amendments were made to this bill and everyone said, “nay,” when asked who is in favor.
By Ben Cousins
Today a bill proposed by Brandon Adams was passed proposing that student-athletes should be paid for playing at a collegiate level. In this bill, public and private schools would be required to pay their athletes or risk losing five percent of the federal funding.
The act shall take effect ninety days prior to the passing of the bill. It would be left to the board of regents how this pay is distributed. The pay may may be given to the student directly or be used to help with the student’s college tuition that scholarships or financial aid do not pay.
“I am an athlete myself; I am just trying to make life easier for these students,” Adams said.
Adams commented that athletes are a primary source of income for universities, so they should be compensated fairly. In addition, some athletes can end up clocking more than 45 hours a week going to practice and games, making it difficult for them keep up with their grades, much less go out apply for jobs and work.
“We want to allow athletes to receive payment for their sports in order to compensate for what they give back to the university. Studies show that forty percent of student athletes struggle finding or maintaining jobs,” said Adams.
Ridah Shaik commented, many student athletes are constantly under pressure mentally and physically. It doesn’t help that they also have to worry about their financial situation. The athletes have to go out,day after day, and push themselves to the limit, just to wake up and do it all again.
“Some sports can affect your health. Not only is it harmful to their time they could be spending on other things, it’s such a commitment. It doesn’t only take a toll on them mentally and physically, but also financially. They really deserve to get compensated when their are risks that could affect you seriously,” said Shaik.
By Brianna Taylor
Upon presenting her bill, representative Kayla Frazier from the Cedar Park delegation is well aware of the discomfort in the room. The shifting eyes, the shuffling feet, and the occasional clearing of the throat are all things she is used to witnessing when speaking about her proposal. Although it may be uncomfortable for some, the subject of her bill is something she as well as many other women believe we should be talking about on a larger scale.
American women spend roughly $2 billion on feminine hygiene products in a single year, and that number is only projected to rise. Despite this statistic, many women that are homeless, imprisoned, or impoverished do not have immediate access to feminine hygiene products, leaving them in a difficult situation because of their inability to pay for a necessity. These issues, as well as many others associated with feminine hygiene costs, are what have prompted the United Nations to declare the state of menstrual hygiene a “public-health, gender-equality and human rights issue.”
Frazier’s bill is formally described as: “An act to remove all tax on feminine hygiene products to decrease the burden in women and declaring an emergency.”
According to Frazier, the implications of removing the tax from feminine hygiene products would be minuscule, and would not negatively impact the fiscal responsibility of the federal government. There are many other goods that are not currently taxed that could make up for the slight loss of revenue from removing this tax – things that are a lot less vital than feminine hygiene products. The taxation of these goods instead of those necessary for proper feminine hygiene would be much more logical, and prove to be more beneficial for women in the long run.
Frazier wrote this bill in order to draw attention to the difficulties that all women face throughout their lifetime, as well as lessen the burden of purchasing these necessary products every single month. Frazier is quite aware that for some, every penny counts, and that the removal of sales tax from feminine hygiene products will ultimately benefit women from all socio-economic areas. The idea that this topic is too taboo for conversation is eliminated in the presentation of this bill, as it allows everyone to have a mature outlook on the issue.
Frazier’s bill, which garnered support from all in the room, was unanimously passed by all in attendance. It is evident that everyone is aware of the implications that this tax imposes on women, and that the elimination of this tax would help women save money that could go to other important things.
Although this bill has a long way to go until we see it enacted Nationwide, there are many places that have already taken action in reducing the cost of feminine hygiene products. Canada was recently successful in eliminating the Goods and Services tax on items such as tampons, pads, and menstrual cups, proving themselves trailblazers in the worldwide effort to improve the availability of these products to women. Several other countries may soon follow suit, as many have begun realizing that this pressing issue is something that requires immediate action. Frazier’s bill is evidence of the menstrual crisis being something that lawmakers and citizens alike need to start recognizing and taking action against.