TRENTON—Students from the Juvenile Justice Commission’s (JJC) residential community homes and day programs attended a mock senate session Wednesday at the New Jersey State House in the official Senate Chambers. After studying the governmental process in the classroom, students debated bills and cast their votes on several pieces of legislation pertaining to juveniles.
“Government impacts everyone’s life – even young people. There is no better way for students to understand how bills are drafted, amended and adopted than by actually doing it themselves,” said executive director of the Juvenile Justice Commission Veleria N. Lawson. “This unique educational opportunity helps our students understand that they can influence government and the laws of this state.”
Students represented individual legislative districts and debated several bills, including S-426 which would permit juveniles under 14 years of age to be tried as adults for certain homicides; A-1561 which would create diversionary programs for juveniles who are charged for sexting; A-1300 which would deny visitation rights to minor children by family members if individuals are convicted of certain crimes; A-1022 which permits evidence of prior convictions or juvenile adjudications in certain criminal cases; and A-1003 which would require non-custodial parents to purchase health benefits coverage for children.
The participants from each JJC residential or day program represented individual voting districts. After preparing their arguments ahead of time in the classroom, each discussed the reasons why they were in favor or against each bill. Students were also able to amend legislation prior to casting their votes. One student acted as the Senate President and another as the Clerk to the Senate, helping to orchestrate the voting session.
Secretary of the Senate Kenneth Hicks spoke to the students about the role of the Senate and Barry Turner, Senior Legislative Information and Bill Room Assistant, Office of Legislative Services, discussed the legislative process and helped guide the senate session.
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