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Bill Passes Proposing Decriminalization of Sex Work in Texas

Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world, yet it is still criminalized in Texas. State Affairs(SAF) members Ananya Vegesna, Ava Karkuschke, and Ethan Ong introduced a proposal that decriminalizes all forms of consensual sex work in Texas.

“When we were deciding to pick our proposal we wanted to pick something that wasn’t commonly discussed,” stated Karkuschke. “When we saw the proposal topic list we thought it was important and something others should be made aware of. We all had heard about this topic before and it was something that we wanted to explore more.”
(Left: Ananya Vegesna; Middle: Ethan Ong; Right: Ava Karkuschke)

The proposal authors wish to decriminalize sex work with five key aspects: prohibitions on use in prostitution of persons under 18 years of age, health and safety requirements, brothel operator certification systems, small owner-operated brothels(SOOBs), and lastly having territorial authorities.

Based on the Prostitution Reform Act(PRA) of 2003 in New Zealand, the proposal authors state that if their proposal were to be enacted, their results to be expected would follow a similar manner as New Zealand. “Five years after the passage of the New Zealand Prostitution Reform Act the Prostitution Law Review Committee has stated that the size of the sex industry has not increased in size and the issue of the increase in sex trafficking was not an issue that had been experienced.”

While the proposal authors make their outstanding proposal sound effortless when presented, they have faced some tough aspects when getting their point across to their fellow delegates.

“One of the hardest aspects of this proposal was to make sure that delegates understood the struggles that sex workers face due to the criminalization of prostitution. Prostitution is often viewed and portrayed in a negative light, but sex workers face a multitude of different struggles and issues which most people aren’t aware of, ” stated Vegesna. “We wanted to ensure that our proposal properly addressed this clearly and thoroughly.”

When actively debating the proposal, proponent intent speaker Pranav Ganta strongly agreed with the intention of this proposal. “We have to understand that allowing this to occur is not only going to increase the rights of prostitution workers, but also allow themselves to gain light and to access a transparent information, policies, and practices that increase their ability to go in with safety measures and allow them to support their families, not because they choose to do it, but because of desperation,” stated Ganta.

While this proposal has received positive feedback from SAF delegates, opponent intent speaker, Marshall Engel had something to say about it. “While some may claim that prostitution is a victimless crime, that it is liberating and consensual, that is certainly not the case, in truth, prostitution creates a setting, whereby our fellow humans, become commodified to be bought and sold,” argued Engel. “Owned for the pleasure of others, prostitutes are merely slaves who want the state to help and protect them, not decriminalize and normalize the crimes against humanity that they experience every day.”

After an interesting debate session, their proposal, which is to decriminalize all forms of consensual sex work in Texas, passed with the majority voting yes to this proposal. “We are truly grateful and happy that we got the opportunity to present in General Assembly(GA) one last time. Given that our proposal passed, this is a defining moment of our YG careers and will be a memory that we take away with us,” stated Ong, thus concluding their Youth and Government journey.

Story By: Jacqueline Chavez

2021-02-01T08:47:33-06:00January 30th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Juvenile Justice Department Bill is Passed in the Senate Unanimously

Senate bill 27, authored by Saron Regassa, regarding the Texas Juvenile Justice Department was passed this morning, unanimously.

The Texas Juvenile Justice Department handles juvenile issues and services within the state of Texas. The juvenile correctional system emphasizes treatment and rehabilitation, as opposed to the focus of public safety and punishment for criminal actions that the adult correctional system puts first. Delegate Regassa from the JER Chilton YMCA synthesized her bill around this system and the improvements she believes it needs. She pushed for: the prohibition of minors being prosecuted as adults within Texas civil and criminal courts, along with allowing the Juvenile Justice Department to work with education systems on reforming school policies regarding behavioral infractions to stop the “school to prison pipeline”.

The concept of minors being tried as adults was unpopular on the senate floor where there was only one opponent speaker to the bill. Daniela Pedraja from the Oak Cliff YMCA strongly supported this idea in her proponent speech on Regassa’s bill stating, “Juvenile’s minds haven’t fully developed a solid sense between right and wrong, so it’s unfair for them to be tried in court as if they do.” Furthermore, according to the National Juvenile Justice Network, Juveniles who are held in adult facilities are 36 times more likely to commit suicide and are more likely to become victims of sexual assault while in prison.” They are also seen to become reoffenders more often than not.

Regassa revealed, “The “school to prison pipeline” has become somewhat of a hot topic in recent years, but it truly is something that needs to be addressed and brought to an end.” This phenomenon most directly affects low income schools and is caused by most school’s zero tolerance policies. “Many minors who are sent to prison because of these policies,” according to Regassa, “don’t deserve to be criminalized for the rest of their lives.”

In the end, Regassa wishes to, “prevent students like me and you from ending up in a prison, instead of living an exciting, curious life the way we, as minors, deserve to.”

Story By: Jamie Bowers, Duncanville High School

2021-01-30T13:51:17-06:00January 30th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Electoral College Reform Bill Unanimously Passes Committee

Breaking News–An amendment to the Texas Election Code that will allocate electoral votes proportionally has passed the Legislative Committee with unanimous support. The bill, authored by William Bolduc of the Austin Delegation, is to be debated in the full Legislative Chamber this afternoon. Bolduc is hopeful that, if signed into law, his bill will increase Texan voter representation.

Texas has historically utilized plurality voting, also known as a “winner-takes-all” system, to allocate electoral votes. This means that when Texans vote in elections, the candidate that wins the popular vote will receive all of the state’s electoral votes. According to Bolduc, this approach is unfair because it effectively nullifies the votes cast for minority candidates. So, Bolduc has looked to states like Nebraska and Maine, which split their electoral votes according to the percentage of the popular vote that each candidate receives. Boldic believes that it is vital that a similar approach is implemented in Texas.

“The way [the electoral college] is administered in Texas goes against the core principles of a fair and united democracy,” Bolduc said. “A system where a majority of a single vote can decide who receives all of our electors, where a candidate can win every electoral vote in Texas without even getting fifty percent of the votes, is not only undemocratic, it is the single greatest form of voter suppression in our time.”

Bolduc’s argument resonated with the other members of his committee, who spoke out in favor of the bill during the pro-con debate period. According to Bolduc, there was not a single dissenter who thought that his proposition should not pass. “They all agreed that we must move away from the winner-takes-all system to a fair, proportional distribution, in which everyone’s vote will count,” Boldoc said. “It’s exciting to know that…we are now one step closer to having electors distributed based on the percentage of the popular vote that each candidate receives.” However, Bolduc acknowledges that it will be challenging to pass his bill in the full chamber.

“I do expect there to be more opposition in the full chamber because there’s a wider variety of opinions and delegations represented,” Bolduc said. “But, I also think this is a common sense bill that a lot of people can get behind.”

Bolduc credits the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections for highlighting faults within the current electoral system. “Texas is a ‘red state’ but that doesn’t mean that 100% of our voters are Republican. The winner-takes-all approach doesn’t reflect voter diversity in this state,” Bolduc said. “No matter what side of the aisle people are on, I think you can agree that a proportional allocation of votes will more fairly reflect the interests of the people.”

If his bill passes, Bolduc is confident that it will make each Texan feel more represented, and thus, more engaged in elections. “When states consistently swing one way, I think a lot of people assume they might as well not vote. If they’re in the minority, it’s like their vote doesn’t even matter,” Bolduc said. “That’s a very dangerous feeling that can undermine our whole democracy, so I think that it could be very helpful to have people know that even if their candidate doesn’t win, they still made some difference by voting.” Ultimately, Bolduc believes that his amendment will have the power to increase voter turnout and confidence in elections to come.

Story by Ava Motes

2021-01-30T11:52:05-06:00January 30th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Recap of 2021’s Campaign Rally

This past Thursday Jan 28th we started the 2021 Texas Youth and Government virtual conference and along with it we kicked off the day with this year’s campaign rally. The campaign rally started by introducing those who ran in their individual sections. Such as Media, State Affairs and County Court. Within the media section all running delegates were unopposed and now they look forward to being our next year’s media officers, as well as the unopposed County Court candidate Bryson Burks. Then up for the state affairs forum chair we have Matthew Garcia and Sally Musial. All delegates introduced had the opportunity to smile and wave at the camera.

Secretary of State Tarun Dasri then introduced the at large candidates, those running for Attorney General, Chief Justice and Texas 75th Youth Governor. Attorney General and Chief justice candidates had 2 minutes to address the chambers and present their campaign video explaining the change they intend to bring within the program. Youth Governor Candidates received 2 and a half minutes to give a live speech addressing the chambers.

When all was said and done each at large candidate was asked two different questions that were submitted by state conference delegates. Candidates had up to fifteen seconds to prepare and one minute and a half to answer the question. First round of questions to the candidates was about explaining certain details of their platform or what makes their campaign unique. The second round of questions were more at ease, it was to get a chance to know the candidates in a fun personal way. At the end of the Q&A period our Secretary of State thanked all the delegates and wished them good luck. He concluded the campaign rally by announcing that voting would open that night at 8pm.

Story By Adriana Contreras

2021-01-30T10:51:55-06:00January 30th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

YMCA Youth National Assembly

Dear Students/Participants,

The Y has a long, proud history of encouraging participation in our nation’s democracy. Today, our Legislative and State Affairs Forum Students did just that as we kicked off our YMCA Texas Youth and Government Annual High School Conference.  

Early this month, many witnessed the storming of our U.S. Capitol an affront to this important work and our Y core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. We invite you to read the full statement from YMCA of the USA’s CEO, Kevin Washington about this event and the Y’s commitment to the democratic process.

Few generations of young Americans have faced as challenging a year as you have these last 12 months, and you have risen to meet each historical moment in ways that are only beginning to be recognized.

As we work to ensure that “democracy is learned by each generation,” and during our conference week, we are asking youth around the country to take part in 5 action items during the first weeks of the new year at www.ymcayag.org/action

  1. Register for our virtual YMCA Youth National Assembly
  2. Sponsor the Educating for Democracy Act
  3. Read & Share the Roadmap to Engaging Youth Voice 
  4. Advance Youth Equity
  5. Apply for the Rise Initiative

Learn more and take action at: www.ymcayag.org/action 

 

2021-01-23T21:34:32-06:00January 23rd, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Youth and Government – Benefits for all

There is a held belief that Youth and Government is limited to those pursuing a career in politics. This weekend, over 500 students are showcasing their skills in the Texas State Conference. However, many delegates do not intend on pursuing a career in politics.
Delegates in Youth and Government claim they want to pursue a diverse range of careers beyond high school, such as hospitality, finance, and Animal Science. “I think the skills I have learned through Youth and Government will be helpful in pursuing my dream career of psychology and sociology.” Stated Joshua Lee

But the benefits of the program are not limited to the skills built while students are speaking. The preparation for competition also teaches critical thinking and research skills. “I have been in Legislative, Judicial, and State Affairs; all 3 of those sections within this program challenged me in different ways. Judicial namely had deep critical thinking skills, however, all sections do as well,” said Matthew Garcia from Duncanville High School. “To be successful in not only this program you’ll need critical thinking and research skills. I will be forever grateful for this program in not only teaching me those skills but making me find my passion with it.”

Delegates have also found that not only does debate teach useful academic skills, but also for life. “I think some life skills that this program teaches everyone is public speaking, which is something that will continue throughout high school, college, and into a professional career.” Stated State Affairs clerk Ainsley Burkes.

Other than teaching skills, Youth and Government allows you to take in other viewpoints according to delegates in State Affairs. There is a worry that when different people from various backgrounds meet, they won’t come to an understanding. “Through this program I’ve learned to be respectful of everyone’s viewpoints no matter how different they are,” said Jaalen Robinson from Duncanville High School. “I’ve done this by being open-minded and not just trying to argue with one another and actually listening to each point.”

These students acknowledge that committing to speech and debate offers a lifetime of benefits. Besides gaining knowledge in the governmental process, Youth and Government allows participants to develop oral and written communication skills, critical thinking skills and effective tools for research, organization and presentation. They agree that Youth and Government is beneficial for every future endeavor, not just political ones.

By: Jacqueline Chávez , Duncanville High School

2021-01-23T14:10:05-06:00January 23rd, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

YG Delegate launches Proposal about Sex Education Classes

This Saturday during the State Affairs forum section, YG SAF Delegate David Wyatt launched a proposal on a rather interesting topic— teaching proper sexual education to adolescent students.

Delegate Wyatt proposed that the class will be taught to students from 7th grade up until the 10th grade.

Wyatt’s proposal also states that parents should also have the opportunity to opt their students out of the class, if parents are not comfortable with their children being taught about the topic within school.

The reason for his proposal is due to the fact that most schools that do teach Sex Ed only teach about abstinence, which in ineffective because most students still decide to engage sexual activities anyways. As a better solution to its ineffectiveness, he decided that it would be better to just teach more about practicing safe sex, as opposed to what was initially being taught.

Delegate Wyatt also mentioned that biology teachers should most likely be teaching this course, as biology teachers have the most knowledge about the human body of all teachers within the school already.

Also, in regards to the class, students and parents should receive an outline of the class as a whole, and what exactly will be taught in the program. Parents would receive a list of topics to talk to their child/children about incase they wanted to speak with them privately about the topic as well. He mentions this while elaborating on his proposal. “Teachers will provide a list of topics of which parents could speak to their children privately about the topic” said Delegate Wyatt.

As result many other Delegates thought delegate Wyatt’s proposal was a good idea as well.

For example fellow YG SAF Delegate Joshua Lee backs up Wyatt’s claims about what sex ed classes teach so he agreed with the idea to at least teach students to practice safe sex, whether they would choose to engage in sexual activities or not.

By: Erin Everette
2021-01-23T13:56:07-06:00January 23rd, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Confidence is Key

Governor Candidate Kalea Roach Reflects on her Growth in the YAG Program

 

When Kalea Roach joined Youth and Government (YAG) five years ago, she could not have imagined that she would one day campaign for Governor. As a first-year Legislative delegate, Roach was intimidated and unsure of herself. However, as Roach gained experience, she began to surpass her own expectations. Years in Youth and Government helped build Roach’s self-confidence, and she is now proud to give back to the program.

“My confidence has grown tremendously since my first year, so much that I am about to literally be giving a speech to every other delegate at the conference,” Roach said. Although Roach did not start out

confidently in YAG, she held a consistent passion for government that drove her dedication.

Roach joined YAG after following her sister to a club practice and observing her first debate. “My sister had been in Legislative for several years, [so] I was attending YAG practice out of curiosity,” Roach said. “I remember everyone was debating back and forth, but no one was getting angry and it was all so cool and polite. I was like ‘I need to be in this program.’” Roach decided to enrol in a YAG Workshop, where she tried out the Legislative section for the first time. “I just knew that it was for me because I loved writing bills that [made] a difference,” Roach said. However, Roach soon discovered that debating at conferences was much more challenging than in practice.

“I was so overwhelmed my first year because I did not expect everyone to be that professional and intelligent,” Roach said. “I was that delegate that was hesitant to voice my views and opinions because I was so intimidated by everyone else.” Roach eventually realized that this was a universal experience for new delegates, and it was normal to struggle with a learning curve. As she continued to practice and attend more conferences, Roach witnessed a profound improvement in her skills. After a couple years, she felt confident enough to oversee Legislative proceedings as a Committee Chair and Clerk.

“Two years ago, my Chair and Clerk team was recognized as Distinguished Chair and Clerk,” Roach said. “It was a moment where I saw how much I had personally grown…and I was very excited about that achievement.” Placing at District gave Roach the confidence-boost needed to campaign for Speaker of Hyde House last year.

“I didn’t win Speaker, but I learned so much from the campaign process,” Roach said. When Roach first campaigned, she had the opportunity to walk up to delegates at the conference and introduce herself in person. However, she wished that she had taken advantage of this more. “I didn’t get to know enough people personally, which didn’t help my campaign,” Roach said. “So, I learned that I needed to be unapologetically myself [and] not hold back anything. I just needed to go for it.”

Despite the setback, Roach was not discouraged. The lessons that she learned from her previous campaign made her more prepared than ever to run as an at-large candidate. “I have always been inspired by the leaders and officers that we had in the past, and they really motivated me to keep trying and putting myself out there,” Roach said. “I decided to run for governor because…I want to represent the voices of delegates.” As someone who was once too afraid to speak up, Roach knew how important it was to advocate for other YAG participants. “I want to be that voice for others, someone [who] will listen and recognize problems and then be able to find solutions,” Roach said.

Throughout her time in Youth and Government, Roach has developed into a confident and effective communicator who embodies the qualities of a leader. She feels that her candidacy represents the culmination of her hard work and persistence over the years. “I never would have thought that my name would be on a ballot, but it shows how much I’ve grown,” Roach said. “My advice to first year members is that everybody starts off that way and it’s okay to feel nervous. But, you can stand up to voice your opinion. It is wanted and it needs to be heard… If you have the confidence to put yourself out there and be unapologetically yourself, it will pay off.”

By: Ava Motes

2021-01-23T13:41:04-06:00January 23rd, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Effects of Youth and Government Post-graduation

The mission of Youth and Government is to, “Help teenagers become responsible citizens and future leaders of our nation.” Everything that takes place in the program stems from this ideal.

Youth and Government equips delegates with skills that can benefit them, not just while they participate in the program, but also throughout their lives. Athena Bruess, a Youth and Government alumni currently attending the University of Pittsburgh, spoke about her experiences in the program and their influence on her current skill set. “I know that I have the communication and critical thinking skills that will be essential for my future career… For example, due to the communication and public speaking skills that I learned through this program, I was able to successfully be a part of the tour guide program through my university.”

Additionally, according to former Chief Justice of Texas Youth and Government Sebastiane Cab alles, YG opens doors to networking opportunities and life-long friendships.“I cannot count the amount of lasting friendships and connections that have come through youth and government. YG has allowed me to be surrounded by so many incredible people. These are people that both I look to for advice and come to me for advice as well. Beyond the awards and accolades, youth and government has blessed me with an amazing commun ity of individuals that I can look to for support and encouragement.”

Both Bruess and Caballes expressed their appreciation for the program, and that overall, they wouldn’t be who they are or where they are today without their involvement in YG. Alumni continuously come back and volunteer once they have graduated high school to be a part of other delegate’s experiences and have a positive impact on the program in the same way many people did for them.

By: Jamie Bowers Oak Cliff Delegation

2021-01-30T14:56:09-06:00January 23rd, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Youth & Government Media is Going Virtual

Media delegates at the 2021 Texas Youth & Government State Conference will be taking a different approach to news gathering due to Covid-19 restrictions. Students will employ a variety of multimedia techniques and platforms to connect with YG peers and deliver relevant, interesting content. Stay tuned here throughout the next two weeks for the big stories, or visit our other platforms.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/texasygmedia/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YMCATXYG

Twitter: https://twitter.com/texasyg

2021-01-22T16:27:27-06:00January 22nd, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments