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HomeRegional News4-H Empowers Youth Voice Through 2023 SDSU Extension 4-H Legislature Program

4-H Empowers Youth Voice Through 2023 SDSU Extension 4-H Legislature Program

BROOKINGS, S.D. – This year’s South Dakota State University Extension 4-H Legislature program yielded three successful bills that will be implemented into the statewide 4-H program, along with a resolution regarding National 4-H Week.

The fourth annual 4-H Legislative Session was held on Nov. 4, 2023, in the South Dakota Capitol building in Pierre. Of the 12 bills proposed, three passed and were approved by the state program director. One more was passed but ultimately vetoed, two failed on the floor, and the remaining six were killed in committee.

Brown County 4-H Rep. Logan Warrington proposed the successful bill to create an annual 4-H cookbook. HB-1010, presented by 4-H Rep. Cailey Sime of Grant County, will change the size of cookies exhibited during county fairs and the State Fair in the Food and Nutrition project area. And 4-H Rep. Evelyn Torberson of Butte and Lawrence counties proposed HB-1003 to create a hot sheet listing all SDSU Extension 4-H program opportunities.

The lone house resolution presented during the session, HR-6001, was brought forward by 4-H Rep. Wyatt Lesmeister and encourages the South Dakota Legislature, governor, counties and cities to proclaim the first week of October as National 4-H Week.

All three bills and the resolution passed unanimously and were signed by the acting 4-H governor, SDSU Extension State 4-H Program Director Tim Tanner. Signed bills will be implemented within a five-year timeframe.

The SDSU Extension 4-H Legislature program year starts on July 1 and ends with the 4-H Legislative Session, which is designed to closely resemble the state’s legislative process. Elected representatives in the program, the 4-H legislators, learn how to write and propose bills that affect the SDSU Extension 4-H program.

“The highlight of this program, in my opinion, is the ability of our 4-H members to be a voice for the organization,” said Hilary Risner, SDSU Extension Program Manager, Regional Youth Educator and a member of the South Dakota 4-H Civic Education Committee. “They are writing, debating and determining the fate of bills that directly affect the 4-H organization. Getting to see young people fired up about their bills is such an incredible experience.”

Nine 4-H legislators participated in the mock legislative experience. Individuals serving as 4-H legislators for the 2023 program year are: Jayden Bender, Marshall County; Dakota Jensen, Potter County; Aedan Klawonn, at-large; Wyatt Lesmeister, at-large; Harmony Miller, Lake County; Cailey Sime, Grant County; Evelyn Torberson, Butte/Lawrence counties; Logan Warrington, Brown County; and Ashlynn Wellman, Pennington County.

Torberson, who introduced one of the 2023 session’s successful bills, learned about the 4-H Legislature program while attending the 2023 4-H Capitol Day. Already interested in civics, she thought the program seemed like a good fit.

“I decided that the best way to learn about the legislative process was to participate in one,” she said.

Throughout the program, youth participants declare candidacy, collect petition signatures and, if they successfully collect enough signatures, campaign for office. To campaign, candidates must create their own materials, including a rack card and campaign video. A formal election process is facilitated by the planning committee, which invites all 4-H constituents, or members, to vote on their preferred candidate from their county 4-H program.

“That decision to put yourself out there and run for an opportunity to represent others is a big step,” said Jenae Hansen-Gross, SDSU Extension 4-H Volunteer Development Field Specialist and a member of the program’s planning committee.

In addition to crafting legislation, 4-H legislators engage in workshops to learn about state government committee and caucus experiences. During session, 4-H legislators serve on committees where they hear testimony on each bill and ultimately pass or fail the bills.

If the bills are passed, they are heard during the general session in the afternoon. Youth participants also participate in a caucus experience, which allows them to see how members of each committee come together to provide a brief report on each bill heard during committee.

“As the discussion deepens, so does the experience for our youth participants,” said Hansen-Gross. “They get to see different perspectives and ideas for bills they have worked on; sometimes that leads to their bill taking a whole new form.”

This was Torberson’s first year participating in the program, and she enjoyed the thoroughness of the process and knowing that she could have an impact on 4-H programs in South Dakota. She especially enjoyed the committee meetings, where legislators proposed their bills and countered opposing testimony.

“This program was an amazing experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who would like to learn more about civics or who would like to make a change in the South Dakota 4-H program,” Torberson said.

Program leaders agree that the South Dakota Capitol building sets the tone for the entire experience. By being in the Capitol, youth get an immersive experience learning how state government works while sitting in the same seats and walking the same hallways as South Dakota’s lawmakers.

“This event is special for our young people because they get to conduct work on behalf of SDSU Extension 4-H in the confines of a building that is the beacon of our state’s lawmaking process,” said Risner. “Not every young person can say they are afforded this opportunity, but we are so fortunate to be able to provide this experience to those that participate in the program.”

To learn more about the SDSU Extension 4-H Legislature program, visit https://extension.sdstate.edu/south-dakota-4-h-legislature-program.

For more information, contact Hilary Risner, SDSU Extension Program Manager and Regional Youth Educator, at 605-688-4167 or Hilary.Risner@sdstate.edu; Jenae Hansen-Gross, SDSU Extension 4-H Volunteer Development Field Specialist, at 605-626-2870 or Jenae.Hansengross@sdstate.edu; or Ronald Frederick, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor – Rosebud, at 605-856-2198 or Ronald.Frederick@sdstate.edu.

The complete 2023 South Dakota 4-H Legislature Program Legislative Session bill results:

  • HB 1001: An Act to establish the Bison display exhibit project area. Proposed by Rep. Jayden Bender. Died in committee.
  • HB 1002: An Act to change exhibitor attire in the South Dakota 4-H Horse Project Show Guide. Proposed by Rep. Aedan Klawonn. Failed 1-6 on the floor.
  • HB 1003: An Act to create a hot sheet listing all SD 4-H Programs. Proposed by Rep. Evelyn Torberson. Passed 7-0 on the floor. Signed by acting 4-H governor.
  • HB 1004: An Act to change the required display entry cards at the state level for South Dakota 4-H exhibits for Junior and Senior aged 4-H members. Proposed by Rep. Dakota Jensen. Died in committee.
  • HB 1005: An Act to require the annual 4-H calendar to be published every year with pictures from the State Fair. Proposed by Rep. Ashlynn Wellman. Failed 2-5 on the floor.
  • HB 1006: An Act to establish a fitting contest for 4-Hers at county and state levels. Proposed by Rep. Aedan Klawonn. Failed 3-4.
  • HB 1007: An Act to allow South Dakota 4-H Shooting Sports youth to shoot in leggings. Proposed by Rep. Harmony Miller. Died in committee.
  • HB 1008: An Act to create a mentorship program guidebook. Proposed by Rep. Wyatt Lesmeister. Withdrawn at request of sponsor.
  • HB 1009: An Act to establish a singular state 4-H dog show. Proposed by Rep. Cailey Sime. Passed 4-3. Vetoed.
  • HB 1010: An Act to change the cookie size in the food and nutrition static project area. Proposed by Rep. Cailey Sime. Passed 7-0. Signed by acting 4-H governor.
  • HB 1011: An Act to create an annual 4-H cookbook. Proposed by Rep. Logan Warrington. Passed 7-0. Signed by acting 4-H governor.
  • HB 1012: An Act to add a prospect calf class at the South Dakota State Fair. Proposed by Rep. Cailey Sime. Died in committee.
  • HR 6001: A resolution urging the South Dakota State Legislature, Governor, Counties, and cities to work with the state and local 4-H offices on proclaiming the first week of October as National 4-H Week. Proposed by Rep. Wyatt Lesmeister. Passed 7-0. Signed by acting 4-H governor.
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