On her way to the capital

Reann Baptiste
Reann Baptiste

BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Reann Baptiste traveled to the state capital with other Youth In Government (YIG) students to study various laws that they believe should be changed or captured their interest. After months of doing research, the youth then created bills that are then presented to the government.

They learned how to write a bill and place it in the correct format to turn an idea into a law. It’s part of the process of developing potential political leaders.

Since 1936, YMCA’s YIG program has given students around the country the opportunity to serve as part of a youth-run, youth-led model government process. The Florida YIG program was founded in 1957, and for more than 56 years, the delegates have been actively engaged with issues that impact their families, schools and communities.

Reann Baptiste

Reann Baptiste

Prior to Reann and the other teens going to Tallahassee, the youths attended two conferences.  The first was a two-day conference held in Orlando last October to inform the students on how the club will run, how an idea becomes a bill and to determine which bills will be presented in Tallahassee.

In February, they traveled to the capital to review the bill and to finalize its language. The checks and balances of this process brought the students to pro/con debates in an effort to present a strong bill.

There are several sections in this process that required the students to be clear in understanding what is being presented and clarity of articulating their position.  Classes were divided into grade levels to serve as opposition and developmental channels to each student who presents a bill. The process is an early step for those students interested in furthering their education in law and government.

“Orlando is almost like a practice run because the ideas are still fresh,” said Reann. “Tallahassee is the more official deal.”

Reann’s bill idea was to get Uber and Lyft, two transportation network companies, to adhere to the same regulations as general taxi companies. Her position stated that non-regulated transportation companies aren’t required to follow the same guidelines as other companies nor pay the same insurance.

This includes differences in insurance liability coverage requirements. Reann’s fear is that a passenger riding in a non-regulated company vehicle could be involved in an accident and then would have to assume their own insurance protection instead of the transportation company providing the coverage.

How did the bill go over?

“Unfortunately, the bill didn’t make it pass the first committee.”

Reann believes that since kids her age aren’t driving, they have no interest in understanding the significance of such a regulation.

There were other bills that garnered the attention of the youth and were passed. One made sure that people convicted of sexual assault or rape get a minimum of three years of jail time without probation. The students have free reign over whatever subjects or bills they desire to pursue.

YIG is a model government process designed to prepare students for a life of engaged and active citizenship built on the values of civil debate, statesmanship and research-based policy solutions.

For more than 55 years, it has provided young leaders the opportunity to gather together to make their voices heard, their passions known and their values strengthened.

In addition to Reann working to change laws, she is involved with flag football, volleyball and Girlfriends, a social group at school. Her parents own a local cab company.

There will be many more trips to Tallahassee in Reann’s future, maybe one day the White House.

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