Moorestown resident's bill gives youth a voice

By Todd McHale Staff writer
Burlington County Times

MOORESTOWN — He’s a business owner, an elected official, and now, an author of a bill signed into law.

It took a great deal of hard work, but Brandon Pugh couldn’t be more pleased.

“When I heard the governor signed the law, to say I was happy would be an understatement,” Pugh said of the legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton that establishes the New Jersey Advisory Council on Youth and Collegiate Affairs in the state Department of Education.

Singleton credited Pugh for his efforts along the way.

“The bill was spurred by the hard work and dedication of Moorestown school board member Brandon Pugh,” Singleton said. “Brandon serves as a member of my Education Citizens Advisory Panel, and talked with me about the importance of having the voice of young New Jerseyans be heard while legislation is being considered.”

The council’s purpose will be to act as an advisory body on youth and collegiate affairs to the state Legislature, departments, agencies, commissions, authorities and private agencies that provide services to or are charged with the care of children and young adults.

The 17-member council will review, monitor, report and make recommendations on issues relating to school-age children and students attending a public or private institution of higher education in the state.

“This law is unique, because only a handful of councils like this exist in the country, and it will provide the youth and college demographic of New Jersey a way to have their voice heard on issues (and) laws directly impacting them,” Pugh said.

The new law also will give young people between the ages of 14 and 22 a chance to weigh in on a host of issues that affect them and their peers.

“I believe this will be a great opportunity for younger citizens,” Pugh said.

In addition to the eight members appointed by the governor, the council will consist of nine public members such as parents, teachers, professors and guidance counselors, among other representatives to be selected by the body’s director.

Even though Pugh, a 21-year-old student at The College of New Jersey, thought of the idea in high school, he learned that getting government officials to act on it would take some time.

“I did not have success having the governor form the council through executive order, so I set out to have a law passed creating it,” he said.

After submitting a draft of the bill to local legislators, the Moorestown High School graduate managed to convince Singleton to introduce it in May 2012.

“This proposal is in line with my belief that it is critical to have the engagement of my bosses, the men and women whom I represent, on policy issues that affect our community,” Singleton said.

While a sponsorship gave the bill life, Pugh found out that was just the first step.

“I will admit I was very naive to the process of passing a bill and how difficult it is to have a bill become law,” he said. “It was a very difficult process, having the bill continue to move forward, because it is not political in nature and it is not a pressing issue. I contacted dozens of Assembly members, including both Democrat and Republican leadership, asking for their support.”

He even testified in front of Assembly and Senate committees.

“Overall, between phone calls and letters, I made over 75 contacts with senators and Assembly members or their staff, explaining the importance of the bill,” Pugh said.

Eventually, his efforts paid off with the passage of the bill. Christie signed it into law Jan. 6.

“It was a huge sense of achievement, because it’s something I had worked on,” he said.

Now, Pugh can focus on his studies; his business, American Consulting and Training, which offers training and consulting in the field of homeland security and public safety; and his membership on the school board.
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