by Jan Goehring
Can young people really have a say in government? They will in New Hampshire through a new law that took effect this month. The law creates the Legislative Youth Advisory Council to examine issues of concern to youth. The 21-member council will consist of one member of the House of Representatives and one member from the Senate and 19 youth aged 15 - 22 years old.
Issues to be considered include education, strategies to increase youth participation in government, substance abuse, poverty, homelessness and youth access to state and local services. The council will advise the legislature on these issues and submit a yearly report with recommendations for future legislation.
The council is modeled after the Maine Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) created in 2002. In its first year, LYAC focused on substance abuse. It then expanded its scope to take a look at education, employment and foster care issues. The council also reaches out to young people in the state by holding school-based forums on issues that are important to youth. Legislators from the area participate in the forums.
Washington also established a Legislative Youth Advisory Council last year. Its mission is to "strive to be a voice for youth, examine issues of importance to Washington youth and vocalize concerns to legislators."