Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council brings tougher seat belt bill to Legislature

Mayor's youth advisoryThe Meridian Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council is a group that gives youth an opportunity to make a difference in their community, get experience in leadership and have some fun as well.

But the teens of the current MYAC are working on something that would go beyond all that. They’re working on legislation at the state level meant to help save lives.

Their bill would make it so that the act of anyone under the age of 19 not wearing a seat belt would be considered a primary offense and police officers would not need any other reason to pull over the driver.

The teens at MYAC are doing more than just writing a bill and making presentations. They’re learning to work in government and defending their bill.

Marie Hardwick, 18, attends school at Riverstone International School in Boise, but lives in Meridian. She has been with MYAC for two years and works as the communications director to help coordinate between Mayor Tammy de Weerd and volunteers.

Hardwick said the teens are working with lawmakers from Meridian and getting input on their work. They’ve also attended events such as Youth Lobby Days at the Idaho State Capitol Building.

“We were able to get two sponsors that day to back the bill and push for a hearing,” Hardwick said.

The group has learned many lessons on working with the Legislature — including persistence.

“This is our second year,” Hardwick said. “We tried this last year and we weren’t able to even get a hearing. It was just kind of just put in a drawer. This year we learned our lesson as far as research goes and wording, and who we talked to and how we presented ourselves. We kind of went all in this year.”

The group was inspired to take on the project after hearing from Sheri Rogers and Duke Rogers who lost their son Bobby Rogers, 16, and his friend Tiffany Walters, 17, in a car crash in the Boise foothills. They, along with another 17-year-old who was seriously injured and a fourth passenger who was uninjured, were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. Since then, the Rogers have been advocating for seat belt use and other safe driving practices with their nonprofit organization Buckle Up For Bobby.

Hardwick said the group found the family’s story moving but many in the group had also experienced some kind of loss from automotive crashes as well. For some of them, it was that personal connection that drove their interest in the seat belt bill.

De Weerd said even at the large high schools like Mountain View High School, the students feel the ripples of losing a classmate, and the MYAC teens have been able to present from their own experiences when talking about the bill.

She said one major goal of MYAC was to give the teens a voice and help provide opportunities for them to be successful, but also to show they can make a difference in their community.

In addition to research and writing the legislation, the teens have had to defend their bill in front of lawmakers. Hardwick along with Mackenzie Lawrence, 18, and Jessica Franson, 17, formed a rebuttal team tasked with defending the bill.

“We also learned that there’s two sides of passing a bill: one is fighting for it and the other is debating your bill,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said the group prepared for questions by lawmakers by doing research and finding related legislation in other places they could use as an example for their own bill.

“They’re very specific,” Franson said about the lawmakers. “It’s important to get up there knowing a lot of info.”

Lawrence and Franson have been in MYAC for two years and serve in leadership positions within the group. Their work with the bill comes at a unique time since some of the members were able to vote for the first time in this past election.

The girls said MYAC was the place to be for teens who wanted to get involved in politics.

“Be the change you want to see,” Lawrence said.

Article courtesy of My Meridian Press

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