TAVARES — When the Florida 4-H Legislature convenes Tuesday, June 21, nearly 200 teen members — including two from Lake County — sworn in to the 4-H House and Senate will pass bills in the topic areas of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Criminal Justice, Education, Government, Commerce & Transportation, Health & Human Services and Juvenile Justice.
Now in its 38th year, the 4-H Legislature program brings youth in direct contact with legislators and lobbyists. It is the only 4-H program of its kind in the United States. Conducting business with an acting governor, lieutenant governor and cabinet, and with both a House and Senate in session, 4-H legislators, lobbyists and reporters will debate a variety of issues and learn how government works. The two 4-H participants from Lake County are Matthew Guy and Joey Smith.
Following Tuesday’s opening session, 4-H legislators will break into committee meetings before debating the bills on Wednesday and Thursday. Bills successful in both chambers will be signed or vetoed by Sean Russell of Sarasota County, the elected “4-H Governor” for the 2010 4-H legislative session. Russell also serves as the State 4-H Council president and regularly encourages youth to participate in activities such as 4-H Legislature.
The 4-H legislative bills are intentionally controversial. Some of the bills on the roster include topics such as requiring the H1N1 vaccine to all school-age children in Florida, making the import of prescription drugs illegal, requiring that bus passengers wear seat belts and requiring parents 17 and under to take parenting classes.
The co-ed hands-on experience in how government works is organized by University of Florida, IFAS 4-H. A youth organizing committee has worked steadily on bills and logistics with UF advisors since September 2009. Youth hold all leadership roles during the event. They help with registration, run meetings, lead charges to kill or support bills and have set up a “Green” and “Gold” two-party system.
For more information about Florida 4-H, log on to www.florida4h.org or contact Jennifer Hodges, Lake County 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent, at (352) 343-4101.