Campaign For A New Jersey Legislative Youth Council: Dougherty Establishes NJ’s First Legislative Youth Council

TRENTON – Governor Murphy signed legislation (A-4987/S-3164) that establishes a forum for New Jersey’s youth to advise the Legislature and all of its committees, commissions, and task forces on their needs, opinions, and welfare for all youth in New Jersey. The Council would identify and implement effective policies, programs, and services that the State could provide its youth.

Bill S3164 passed (36-0-4) in the Senate on 12/02/21 and in the General Assembly (77-0-2) on 1/10/22. Primary sponsors of the legislation include Senators Vin Gopal and Troy Singleton, and Assemblymembers Eric Houghtaling, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Thomas Giblin.

Zach Dougherty, co-founder of New Jersey’s March for Our Lives and leader of the Campaign for a New Jersey Legislative Youth Council, said in a statement that the law “represents a  bipartisan commitment to empowering the state’s youngest citizens. Governor Murphy and the state legislature recognize that a junior perspective can be beneficial to the policy making process. On our shoulders, young as we are, rest the burden of fashioning a far, far better society than we have experienced in the few short years that have passed.”

Dougherty added, “This council will have the opportunity to tackle our generation’s most pressing issues with an innovative disposition. Its future members will concentrate on civics education; drugs and substance abuse; emotional and physical health; employment and economic opportunities; environmental protection; gun violence and school safety; homelessness and poverty; mental health; safe environments for youth; sexual harassment and violence; youth services; and youth bias and hate crimes.

Three legislators in each legislative district would appoint one public member, between the ages 15 to 23 at the time of appointment, to the council based on applications submitted from residents of their respective districts. Legislative members would be required to be appointed to the council within 60 days of the bill’s enactment to fulfill a non-voting supervisory role on the council.

Numerous other states have organized their own legislative youth councils. Dougherty introduced the idea to Gopal in 2020, while attending his state and local government class as a freshman student at Monmouth University.

Original Article