Guam Youth Congress will be in session on Jan. 18 and items that may be added to their agenda include bills that promote health and allow more fresh farm produce into school cafeterias.
There are two bills members introduced recently that will likely be on the agenda as it is finalized prior to the upcoming session.
Bill 26-32, which plans to tax vaping products the same way that cigarettes and alcohol are taxed. This act, known as the “Guam Vaping Product Tax Act of 2019,” has the goal of keeping Guam's air clean and smoke-free while also encouraging those who smoke or vape to discontinue due to the increased cost and health risks. The Guam Youth Congress plans for the tax to discourage buyers of dangerous products and prevent lifelong nicotine addictions among Guam's youth.
Another potential topic of discussion is Bill 29-32, the Farm to School Pilot Program Act. Sponsored by several of the representatives, the bill seeks to increase our island’s self-sustainability by incorporating locally-grown goods into schools island-wide.
The GYC, which is in its 32nd term, meets monthly at the Congress Building in Hagåtña. It's speaker, this term, is Christian Valencia. Their monthly meetings discuss a wide array of issues, such as environmental issues, health policies, and government policies that impact youth.
Guam Youth Congress
I Kongressun Manhoben Guåhan, or The Guam Youth Congress, is the primary legislative body for Guam’s youth, comprising of representatives from all across the island. The Guam Youth Congress exists to resemble I Liheslaturan Guåhan, The Guam Legislature, and is a means for the youth of Guam to serve their island community.
Nolan Flores, the representative of the University of Guam, said the “GYC exists to represent the youth of Guam, voice their desires and aspirations and advocate for the change they wish to see.”
As a legislative body, the Guam Youth Congress has the ability to make its own rules, establish committees and pass resolutions and bills, which are transmitted to the Guam Legislature.
Some of the Youth Congress’ most notable pieces of legislation include the plastic bag ban and the higher minimum smoking age that became part of local law. Youth Congress members were active voices during public hearings for the bill, ensuring students' voices were heard.
Flores said his ultimate goal as a member of the GYC is to serve as the voice of students and to bring about positive change, such as preserving and revitalizing culture and language, promoting environmental sustainability and empowering our youth and the entire community.
A stepping stone to public service
The GYC serves as a way to learn more about public service. Students have opportunities to brush shoulders with the island's leaders.
“One of the most rewarding benefits of the youth congress is being able to make a difference. Being able to share your opinions on bills or resolutions and fighting for what’s right for the future of our island," said Valina Matanan, who shared her views on the importance of representing Guam’s youth on the legislative scale. "The drive you possess and the unwillingness to give up is what can ultimately sway your decision on important matters.”
Another primary objective of the Guam Youth Conference is to encourage others to take a stand and to help influence change.
“An overarching goal of Youth Congress is to get the young adults of Guam to participate in politics and get involved with what is going on around our island, as well as lending an ear to issues that may be overlooked but touch the hearts of our diverse communities,” said Talia Sablan, 17, who represents Agaña Heights on the Guam Youth Congress.