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An Insider’s View of District Conference (PHOTOS)

By Riley Wheaton

A collection of photos explaining how Youth and Government is an impactful and pertinent organization that raises and trains the leaders of the up and coming generation.

State Affairs: Mental Health and Wellness

Delegate Victor Falcon speaks on behalf of an amendment he proposed for Delegates Sheridyn Campos and Delegate Nirupama Balaji’s forum proposal “to aid high school students struggling with mental illness” by implementing a Mental Health Wellness Awareness Week each year. While Delegate Falcon from Hays High School believes that the proposal is “imperative for mental well-being,” he suggested that this week should take place on a monthly, rather than annual, basis. While the authors denied his amendment because such action would be too costly, the proposal was still passed during this practice round. Falcon elaborates that he enjoys participating in Youth and Government because of how it is “really fun to hear and see everyone’s hard work” as well as the experience he can gain for future endeavors.

State Affairs: Banning Minor Conversion Therapy

Delegate Chance Hall from Delle Valle High School speaks on behalf of his proposed bill for minor protections against conversion therapy. Hall chose to write this bill because he believes “conversion therapy is just a big form of torture” and that we would have a “better society” without such a practice existing. Several Delegates agreed with hall in saying that this practice is “outdated and extremely hurtful” (Delegate Parks Austin High) and “counter-productive” (Delegate Jamail Hays High School). One delegate stated that while such programs are harmful, it should be up to the parents’ discretion. Hall responded with the idea that under certain circumstances, this is understood, but under no circumstances should minors be forced into this specific type of so-called therapy. This form of competition under Youth and Government is exposing these students to real-world issues and allowing them to take a stance that betters our community.

Trial Court

Judge Rinehart has been participating in Youth and Government for three years now. After being a witness and then an attorney, Rinehart chose to tackle the role of judge this year in order to receive well-rounded experience in the different positions of the court. This year’s case involves an intoxicated manslaughter, in which all trial participants are able to evaluate serious and applicable scenarios. Rinehart’s role serves mainly to maintain “order in the court,” however, she explains that all of these experiences have given her “opportunities to expose herself” to fields of interest. Youth and Government provides many students who are “interested in law” to figure out if this is actually a career path they would like to take while being able to delve into their positions in a safe environment.

Legislative: Bill 24

Delegate Johnson from Fox Tech High School gives her closing authorship speech for her bill for the Improvement of Immigration Detention Center Living. Johnson explains that there is a lack of opportunities for immigrants in Texas and urges the introduction of some form of education to better their lives. While there was some push back due to the funding for the bill, Johnson still stood firm that on top of giving them educational opportunities, these people also should have the right to quality food, water, clothing, and other basic needs. Johnson states that immigrants have come to America in hope of a “dream that they knew people say America has,” and this dream should not be suppressed.

Legislative: Bill 45

Delegate Tyler Hauger  speaks on behalf of Delegate Lily Sethre-Brink’s act to legalize sex work for legal adults. Hauger agrees that this act would “decrease STDs because of crime” of rape and sex trafficking as Sethre-Brink elaborated has been proven through a UCLA study. They advocate for this due to it being and individual’s right to use their body as they choose this regardless of the controversial opinions that exist on the issue. Hauger explains that he chooses to participate in Youth and Government because he wants “to go into politics in the future” and “it’s incredibly fun!”

Junior Youth and Government: Monarch Butterflies

Delegate Elias Reyborn from Clint Small Middle School proposes an amendment to Delegate Cali Reever’s act to propose protecting the migration paths of monarch butterflies. Rayborn suggests to amend line 7 of the bill in order urge against using pesticides for the milkweed that would be planted. Reever accepts this amendment and moves to her closing speech. She explains that “monarchs are amazing creatures (that) deserve to stay” and, therefore, she urged “all of (the delegates) to vote for this bill.” The chamber voted and her bill passed.

Junior Youth and Government

In Junior Youth and Government, these students are introduced to the rules and guidelines of the competition for legislature. The students first learned how to enact in basic debating through simulation before moving on to more complicated topics such as points of order. Students are openly allowed to ask questions about the guidelines in this environment. When responding to whether or not you can vote on your own bill, the teachers explain that you most definitely can and that you can even “vote against your own bill if you do not like it anymore” possibly due to an unwanted amendment.

Governor Candidate Addie Mae

Addie Mae Villas has been involved in Youth and Government for three years now and is a very dedicated member. This year she chose to run for Governor due to her passion for the organization and will to “change the status quo” of Youth and Government. Not only would she like to be the first female Governor since 2010, but, she is urging the integration of schools and throughout these competitions. She has this grand idea for a new form of Youth and Government that forms long lasting friendships while preparing for future careers.

Legislative: Chairs

Delegate Griffen Smith is preparing for his role as chair of his chamber while others are discussing what Youth and Government has to offer past the district level. Smith explains that his role is to “run the round,” make sure each delegate gets proper precedence, and that the round is carried out properly.

Appellate Court

In this court, Daniel Springer is representing the State of Texas (appellent) against the appelle, Cameron Shepard who was accused of intoxicated manslaughter. In this round Springer gives long and elaborated speeches about this case and specific facts that references several other cases in order to come to a conclusion on this case. The Judge questions each side in order to draw out certain holes in each argument. For example, Springer suggests that “Officer Cole was able to remember certain facts” in which afterward the Judge explains that “law enforcement officer factual observations on DWI cases” are not accepted by the hearsay rule. All participants hard work shown through in this detailed round that is truly giving them real-life experience for any sort of career they would like to pursue in this realm.

 

2018-11-10T15:19:10+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Duo Improvises Way to Appellate Victory

By Ava Motes

Sophomores Luka Verheul and Alden Harris argued their first appellate case this morning, surprising both themselves and their opponents when the judge ruled in their favor.

“I felt so unprepared, I can’t believe we actually won,” said Harris, “It still feels like we didn’t deserve it.”

The pair was competing against another group from their school, who had spent over a month assembling their arguments. Harris and Verheul, on the other hand, wrote their opening statements twenty minutes before the trial began. Underdressed and unconfident, they went into the trial under the presumption that they would lose gruesomely to their peers.

Verheul and Harris faced an array of obstacles over the course of this morning.

“We overslept, we forgot to print our brief, our carpool almost left without us because we were running late, and the suit I planned to wear didn’t fit anymore,” said Verheul, “it was just like every little thing that could have gone wrong did.”

Verheul forced to attend the conference wearing loose-fitting thrifted trousers, vans, and sweatshirt. He felt entirely out of place by comparison to all of the other competitors.

“I didn’t think they’d take me seriously. The other team walked in looking insanely professional, and I was in a hoodie,” said Verheul.

“The past 24 hours were just so stressful,” said Verheul, who had gone to bed at 2 a.m. after sleeping-over at Haris’ house the previous night.

They had expected to buckle-down on their preparations the night before, but procrastinated to the point that productivity was no longer feasible.

“We would just keep saying ‘let’s watch one more video on YouTube, then we’ll prepare.’” Verheul said, “We just got into this mindset of putting it off because we were just so nervous.”

Two weeks prior, Harris and Verheul missed the deadline for appellate brief submissions and feared that they would be barred from participating.

“I didn’t even feel like preparing anymore because it just seemed like we wouldn’t be allowed to come,” said Harris.

The shaken feeling accompanying such insecurities stuck with them both, even after they were told that they still had the opportunity to compete. This compounded with first-time jitters, leaving the pair feeling unstable in their knowledge of the case general appellate proceedings. They were unsure of what to expect, and it seemed as though their work leading up to the conference was insufficient.

“We really did know the specifics of the case well, but I was worried that we couldn’t hold up in heavy debate,” said Harris.

However, appellate trials are not the extensive due process debates that they are often made out to be. Such trials are controlled and contained, testing your knowledge and interpretation as opposed to your use of flashy argument tactics. Effective public speaking skills are important for swaying a judge to rule in your favor, but it is just as vital for attorneys to understand the foundation of their case and respond to questions clearly.

After Harris and Verheul realized that the trial would not function as they had feared, they were able to proceed with more confidence.

“What we had expected was just so much worse than how it actually was. Once we realized that we could do this, despite everything we had been telling ourselves, everything went well,” said Harris.

Ultimately, Harris and Verheul were able to surge ahead of their opponents.

“We were respectful and clear, and I think that really impressed the judge,” said Verheul. Despite their last-minute preparations, they knew all of the answers to the questions posed to them and were able to respond thoroughly.

“I think we just needed to realize that everything was okay, and we actually knew our stuff,” said Harris.

The pair were able to prove themselves during their first trial, giving them the reassurance they needed to proceed with success throughout the remainder of the conference.

2018-11-10T15:04:44+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bill passes for free public college for Texas residents

By Ivan Kipp

A new bill proposed at the Austin YMCA Texas Youth & Government District Conference is seeking to promote affordable public college in Texas by implementing a gasoline tax. The bill passed unanimously.

This bill was presented by Hays High School Delegate Dylan Cousins, who is a senior.

Delegate Cousins says that this bill will enact a “small to medium increase in gas tax” to ensure that any family making under 125,000 a year will be able to attend a two to four year program at any Texas public college for free given that they are residents in the state of Texas, take 30 credits per calendar year, and plan to stay and work in Texas following their graduation for the same amount of time they were apart of the program.

Delegate Cousins claims that “we need to reduce student debt”, and that the state will do so by implementing the tax previously mentioned on gas. Cousins says that his bill “closely mirrors legislation in New York” and current practices at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The tax will be determined by the Texas Education Agency, who will evaluate the cost of implementing the bill and instruct the Texas comptroller to raise the gas tax to cover the costs, as stated in Cousins bill. Cousins also says that it “is of vital importance to the state” that the TEA reports these projected costs. To fluctuate accordingly with changes in the economy, the TEA will re-evaluate the cost and if necessary propose a change in the legislature.

Cousin argued that an increase in gas tax would “give Texas better education and will reduce student debt.”

Cousin added that the bill will only apply two or four-year public colleges, excluding private universities.

Delegate Nambala from Vista Ridge in support of the bill agreed that “we won’t have much pain, but mostly gain after passing or re-evaluation” of the bill.

Delegate Cousins said that the benefit of the reduced bachelor’s degree will benefit the lower class to a greater effect. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “college graduates, on average, earned  56% more than high school grads in 2015”.

This act shall take effect beginning the 2022-2023 school year for all public universities.

2018-11-10T14:46:23+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Homeless Rehabilitation Bill Proposed and Passed

By Sierra Jackson

During Committee three, delegate Sangmin Yi,of Cedar Park High School,12, presented a bill declaring the homeless shelters that were currently being run publicly and privately to be reformed into a center where they will be able to learn basic and/or advanced skills used to achieve employment and rehabilitation. The bill was passed 10:0.

“I saw that if you just keep it as homeless shelters, the cycle is going to keep continuing where people are going get off their feet and try to become independent again, only to fall back into poverty because they don’t have the right skills or environment,” Yi said.

Yi argued, “by changing homeless shelters to homeless rehabilitation centers, it can provide them with an environment where they can join back the economy and society.”  

Additionally, Yi added that adding a rehabilitation component to homeless shelters would eventually “boost the economy because businesses can make donations to these centers and they will get first choice of picking people to work for their business.”

Although the bill was voted in unanimously, there was an amendment added. The amendment states that private shelters should not be included to this bill because they do not receive federal funding. The amendment was passed with a 9:0 ratio.    

2018-11-10T14:01:57+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Act of Free Public College Bill Proposed in Texas

By Tierra Jackson

During Committee One, Ramya Nambala, of Vista Ridge High School, 9, presented a bill declaring free public college, resulting in its acceptance. Delegate Nambala researched the bill using economical research. The bill was passed 3-4.

Nambala believed that by making public colleges free that it would give all Texans a new opportunity to be able to attend college no matter their economic background.

Tuition in public colleges has steadily risen over time; in the course of 33 year’s, tuition has risen almost $10,000, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Additionally, the amount in student loans has grown proportionally. Between 1992 and 2012, the amount owed by a student with a bachelor’s degree doubled, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Nambala argued that by making public colleges in Texas free, it will gradually motivate students and even undergraduates to pursue their college dream.

“If other countries such as Norway, Finland and Iceland all have free public college, that the state of Texas should agree to act in favor of the bill also,” Nambala said.

Opponents of Nambala’s bill argued that free college would further tax middle and upper-class citizens.

2018-11-10T13:54:34+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bill Proposes Adding Third Gender Option to Driver’s Licenses

By Christina Thies

A bill proposing the addition of an “other” or third gender option to state-issued driver’s licenses was killed in Committee Three session at Youth and Government District Conference. Delegate Alex Watson, 9, authored and presented the bill in hopes that it would provide the idea of inclusiveness into this critical identification. The overall idea of this bill was to refrain from classifying based off of sex, and instead provide a gender non-conforming option.

The bill was defeated 6 to 5.

Watson stated the idea behind his bill came from his participation in the GSA club at his high school.

“Through many stories shared by many members who have struggled with the discomfort of choosing a set gender, [I was able to grasp] the idea that something needed to be done,” Watson said.  

The opponents of the bill stated, “It would be more difficult for law enforcement and the judicial branch to identify individuals in the case of an accident”. Additional opposition cited possible increases in fraud as a reason this bill should not be passed. Some opponents expressed concern with the third gender creating unfair treatment, which could possibly alienate a group of people.

Watson argued it was a fundamental human right that people should be able to choose how they are perceived in society. Supporters of Watson said, “It should not be up to the government to choose how individuals are represented, but the individuals themself.”

Although the bill did not pass, Watson continues to advocate for non-conforming rights.

2018-11-10T13:18:39+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Legalization of Sex Work Bill Proposed and Passed

By Christy Morales

A new bill proposing the legalization of sex work passed 7-2 votes. Lily Sethre-Brink, a senior at Dripping Spring high school, argued that sex work is in individual right in need of government protection.

“People should be able to use their body as they please,” Sethre-Brink said.

Sethre-Brink also argued that we shouldn’t hold the “moral of people on others.”

Amod Daherkar argued that the legalization of sex work could increase sexually transmitted diseases. Tristan Aradi did not fundamentally disagree with the bill, but added it could increase or decrease the number of people in sex work. On the other side, Tylar Hauger said the bill would help, and it did not “harm other people.”

Sethre-Brink also added that the legalization of sex work could decrease rapes and physical injuries. She also cited that there are “more dangerous” jobs than sex work, and those jobs are not illegal. Ultimately, she argued it was an individual’s right to be able to choose their type of work.

2018-11-10T13:15:05+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

New Bill declaring Affirmative Action practices illegal, replaces policy based on race with socio-economic status

By Ivan Kipp

A new bill presented at the Austin YMCA Texas Youth & Government District Assembly seeks to render all practices and policies of Affirmative Action illegal in the United States, and replace these practices based on race with socio-economic status. The bill was passed in a unanimous vote.

This bill was presented by LASA High School Delegate Avik Ahuja, who is enrolled as a junior.

Ahuja’s bill has called for declaring the use of affirmative action policies in the employment process and university admissions to be illegal.

Currently, eight states have already banned Affirmative Action practices, which includes Oklahoma, California, Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, and Florida. This bill will extend the ban to all 42 other states who still have Affirmative Action policies.

According to the Cornell Law School, Affirmative Action is “a set of procedures designed to eliminate unlawful discrimination among applicants, remedy the results of such prior discrimination, and prevent such discrimination in the future”. This practice was implemented during LBJ’s presidency with the purpose to encourage minorities in enrolling in college and jobs that were predominantly held by white populations. Ahuja found that while the historical origins were necessary for the time, these practices now only take race into consideration and are devoid of qualification, individual achievement or character, he said.

Delegate Ahuja says that Affirmative Action is “a form of legalized discrimination” under the basis of race, and believes we should implement socio-economic factors in its place. Ahuja also quoted the late Reverend Martin Luther King in support of his bill that we should “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. Ahuja further elaborates that he believes “in a color-blind admission process” and that the debate over Affirmative Action should end.

Amendment Author Delegate Augustus Brown says that “I do not believe that Affirmative Action is the way to go for deciding who receives grants or scholarships”, and was “wary of it at first”, but believes that this bill “will be a benefit to the State of Texas”. Delegate Brown continues the implied purpose of Delegate Ahuja’s bill with his amendment to replace Affirmative Action with policies to aid those with a socio-economic disadvantage rather than race. Delegate Brown says that basing these replacement policies on socio-economic status will “promote those who lack resource” rather than just their race.

A delegate in favor of the bill said that “this helps promote diversity through background and socio-economic status” and still helps those minorities who are lower class, “which also aids the original purpose” of Affirmative Action.

2018-11-10T13:14:16+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Americans Will Continue to Pay Taxes on Hygiene Products

By Ava Motes

A “hygiene tax removal” bill that was proposed on Saturday has been defeated by seven votes to two, ultimately leaving the current 6.25% sales tax placed on hygiene products in effect.

“Sanitation and hygiene is a basic human necessity,” said Chloe McBride, author of Bill Proposal 28. “It is a shame that poorer people cannot afford the things critical to their health.”

McBride’s argument against inhibiting taxation has been around for decades, calling to mind American grievances dating back to the Revolutionary War. Debate over the taxation of hygiene products in particular came to a head on Thursday when Nevada joined 10 other states in repealing taxes placed on feminine sanitary products. This tax has been dubbed “the pink tax” and has been criticized for placing an unnecessary burden, and even barrier, on women managing their physical welfare. While many advocates for tax reform in Nevada have rejoiced in the recent repealment of this tax, this remains unaddressed on the national scale. The struggle against “unfair taxation without representation,” is far from over, according to McBride, who asserted that people of lower socioeconomic status face daily hardships that policy-makers can never truly understand.

While other voters could agree with the humanitarian concern driving McBride’s proposal, other committee members such as Lillian Sethre-Brink expressed concern that the presentation of the issue favored altruism over economic logistics. “The hygiene products falling under this bill can all be purchased for under 30 dollars, so a 6 percent tax reduction is arbitrary,” said Sethre-Brink, who felt that the bill looked nice on paper but would not make a substantial difference for consumers.

Sethre-Brink’s point drew attention to the vague nature of McBride’s proposal, sparking further debate. Committee-member Catherine Wismer joined the opposition, arguing that the proposition was “fundamentally flawed [and] the entire bill contradicts itself.” She was referring to section III of the bill, which imposed penalty fines on businesses that refused to remove the tax. It is ultimately the government that determines taxes and places them on individual products, not businesses themselves. As a result, businesses can independently alter the prices of products, but do not have the ability to defy government tax specifications. Wismer’s argument invalidated the entire section of the bill, and thus placed it on a trajectory to be defeated.

Wismer also pointed out that “the bill will target independent businesses and hurt our economy as opposed to helping the impoverished.” This argument convinced the remainder of the committee to oppose the bill, even in spite of proposed amendments to the phrasing of Section III. Although the bill did not pass in the end, McBride held little animosity. McBride maintained that affordable sanitation is a vital determinant of an individual’s quality of life, but said “I can see everybody’s point of view.” McBride recognized that her proposition had some fundamental flaws, but intends to continue her work to “make sure that necessities are not considered a commodity.”

2018-11-10T13:13:04+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

March on the Capitol Grounds

By Caden Ziegler

The Texas State Capitol is “The place where government and history happen every day,” according to the Bob Bullock Museum. Not only are state laws birthed here, but the building also holds significant meaning to the surrounding citizens. Many people choose the rotunda in the center of the Capitol to protest, as it is the vessel that connects the people to the government.

One such event is going on today, Jan. 27, regarding abortion rights. A pro-life rally is in attendance, as well as a counter-protesting pro-choice rally. Forty-five years ago, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973 protected the right to abortion within the first trimester of the pregnancy.

The Texas Alliance for Life website states that “legal abortion in our nation has claimed the lives of more than 60 million unborn children and has hurt countless women and men.” Beginning around 1 p.m., the group marched toward the Capitol building from the Ministry Fair on North Congress.

The Austin Chronicle defines this Rally for Life as “one of Texas’ the biggest anti-abortion events.” Texas Alliance for Life claims that there will be thousands of attendees, the website has a call to arms, telling followers to “organize a bus or carpool of people from your church, youth group, or local pro-life organization to come.”

Katie Tahuahua has been involved with Alliance for Life since college, and said,  “We are here at the capitol for the Texas Rally for Life, which the Alliance for Life put on every year to bring pro-life people from across the state together to send a message to the capitol that we need to protect the unborn.”

“There are usually some protesters,” said Tahuahua. This year marks the fifth rally she has attended. Her boss, State Representative Isaac, helped write the sonogram bill. She said this bill requires that “women have a sonogram before they choose to have an abortion,

[so] that they have completely informed consent with what they are doing.”

He also helped defund Planned Parenthood, so now all of their funding goes towards women’s health initiatives, providing birth control and health screenings to low income families. These initiatives do not provide abortion services.

Many people at the rally also took moderate views, believing that Roe v. Wade was wrong in allowing abortion so late into the pregnancy. One woman believed that abortion should be done in a shorter window of time, because there is scientific evidence that after a certain point the child/fetus can feel pain.

Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court case that established a protocol for state involvement in cases of abortion. According to the case, states must legalize abortion in the first trimester, states may choose to limit abortion access in the second trimester, and states may ban abortion in the third trimester. A subsequent Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, extended abortion protections to ensure that limits to abortion access must not place an “undue burden” on the woman seeking an abortion.

Lexie Cooper is the President of the Austin chapter of NOW, the National Organization for Women. She and the Texas Handmaid’s, advocates of women’s reproductive rights, organized the counter protest that would meet the Rally for Life.

“I was raised Christian and I do strongly believe that a loving God would be pro-choice. I know that we have a lot of other religious people here who believe that as well,” Cooper said. The mass of people surrounding the Capitol was dotted with groups of sisters, religious women devoted to Jesus Christ but live in a convent rather than a monastery like nuns.

“We have a basic right, women can be free, abortion on demand and without apology,” shouted the protesters as they stood in front of the Capitol gates. On the South Grounds of the Capitol, a pro-life band played to greet the rally as they entered the grounds.

The Capitol is not only a government office or tourist destination, but a place where people come together, sometimes to express their differences, in hopes of building what they believe is a brighter future.

2018-05-31T07:22:23+00:00January 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments
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