An amendment to Assembly Bill 46, titled the “The Youth Empowerment Act,” would create a California Youth Empowerment Commission with other changes to support youth political activity.
The original law was in response to the spike in voter turnout among people ages 18-24 from 2014 – with an 8% turnout, to 2018, which saw a 27.5% turnout within the same age group, according to AB 46.
The original law, approved in June 2019, was created to allow the youth of California to be able to engage with their local policymakers. The law lays out specific requirements of the state so communication between young people and government officials will remain consistent. Besides newly formed paths of communication, the text also creates ways for young people to add in their opinions when it comes to the creation and amendments of legislation that affects their generation.
The amendment to the bill proposed earlier this year calls for the creation of a California Youth Empowerment Commission with 25 voting commissioners between the ages of 14 and 25, with regular meetings required.
The commission’s main purpose would be to advise on matters of civic engagement. Specifically, drafting and approval of resolutions are to be conducted by the committee. Committee members also would testify during legislative committee meetings.
“It’s always good to have access to policy makers in a democracy,” said Juli Minoves-Triquell, University of La Verne associate professor of political science.
He said the presence of youth is a wonderful addition to the state government, especially since now they could make their voices heard and even influence policy.
Minoves-Triquell suggested that the contribution from all age groups is important for any society.
He noted that on an international level, there was recently a youth commission created regarding climate change for the U.N., so now seeing this on a state level was a sign for optimism.
“By bringing in the youth, it brings in reality, and if they do it right, they could make a real positive impact,” said Sarah Morales, president of the Associated Students of the University of La Verne and a senior social science major.
Morales took on the University’s January term situation this past year alongside the ASULV body when the term was at risk for being terminated. Although the deciding vote on whether or not it would be kept came down to the faculty senate and not the students, the ASULV body came together to share their concerns against the termination and ultimately had the vote turn out in their favor. This example of students actively participating in their local school government is similar to the AB 46 Commission of students that was created, Morales said.
Morales continued that the Commission has to be purposeful in what it does.
“We all deserve legislators who will be responsible, actively listen, and be responsive,” Morales said.
Besides creating the new commission, other changes would include tightening of existing budget allowances, such as the end to reimbursement of “food, travel, or lodging expenses” by public commission members. Additionally, the amended law would allow commission members to join the meetings via teleconference platform if unable to meet in person. It was emphasized in the amendment text that the need for the young commissioners to be able to join the meetings was crucial and therefore, the text was changed to accommodate that.
The existing law requires teleconference meetings of state bodies to be public and available to the public, allowing youth to have access to public information and address the state body directly, while happening live. The location and agendas of the meetings must also be publicly provided.
AB 46 not only provides youth with communication between themselves and the legislature, but with various social services and programs as well, including the California Youth Leadership Project. This organization helps to provide scholarships to disconnected and disadvantaged youth between the ages of 14 to 18 and was originally created in September of 2012 under the Senate Bill No. 803. SB 803 works to combat homelessness, which at the time was stated to affect nearly 200,000 minors state wide.
“I believe that it is our responsibility to engage and listen to the next generation before making policy decisions that directly impact them,” said Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, D-Arleta, in a recent news release about the proposed youth advisory commission.
Having the student-led advisory board for youth is necessary, especially since out of the 40 California commissions advising the government, none of them included the state’s youth, Rivas said.
Lindsey Pacela can be reached at email@example.com.