Written by GYAC members Ina Bhoopalam and Jennifer Wang
On Friday, February 3, members of the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council (GYAC) arrived in Ashland, Nebraska, to participate in an immersive experience about government and leadership.
What is Legislative Day?
Legislative Day is actually a two-and-a-half-day experience in which GYAC members connect with other members of their community, listen to speakers talk about government, and research and present their opinions on current Nebraska legislation. This year, GYAC members interacted with members from the Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) initiative, Boys Town, Project Everlast, Voices of Hope, and many more.
The experience began with a day of icebreakers, where members were encouraged to interact with participants from other organizations and expand their network of friends. On Sunday, several speakers were invited to give presentations about issues youth in our state are facing. Among them was Thomas Burns, Bellevue council member and second youngest elected official in the state, who conducted a Q&A session about various issues in politics, government, and his personal experience running for office.
After listening to several intriguing and passionate speakers, a brainstorming session was conducted, and we researched the four bills members had voted on prior to arriving. Members broke up into groups to research individually and form presentations advocating for specific bills. Later, we came together to relax and watch the Super Bowl.
On Monday, members arrived at the State Capitol to tour the historic building, speak with various senators at a luncheon, sit in on bill hearings, and meet Governor Pete Ricketts. They also each presented their research on bills to the senators and the Governor.
What did we advocate for?
The group selected four bills to focus on for this year’s Legislative Day:
- LB836: This bill provides that minors may consent to outpatient mental health treatment without the permission of a parent or guardian under certain circumstances.
- LB870: This bill provides guidance and stipulations for the usage of room confinement, including when it’s acceptable, under what conditions, and who must be made aware.
- LB1041: This bill requires specific training on sexual abuse before individuals can become licensed foster parents.
- LR293CA: This is a constitutional amendment providing the right to use or consume medical cannabis subject to laws, rules, and regulations. If passed, the issue would be put on the ballot for Nebraska voters to decide.
Participants put together presentations on each bill, whether for or against, to present to the senators and the Governor. It was a great learning experience for all!
“I am so grateful to have been part of this experience,” said new GYAC member Ellie Roselius. “I was exposed to so many new perspectives and opinions. It was enlightening.”
Sarah Smith, another new GYAC member, added, “The multitude of perspectives from youth around the state truly opened my eyes to the diversity of problems young people face today. I was inspired by the passion of my fellow GYAC members, one of whom testified before the Education Committee on an issue that truly mattered to him.”
And Alexander Keck, a previous Legislative Day participant, shared, “This year, I was fortunate to have conversations with youth about their experiences within the foster and penal system.”
Participants all agreed it was an honor to help reform our state for the better.