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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on April 8, 2000. Used by permission.




Youth served at legislative forum

GOSHEN: High school students sat in seats of power as Orange County hosted Youth in Government Day yesterday.

By Christopher Mele
The Times Herald-Record

Josh Lawton swapped his desk at Middletown High School for a swivel chair at the Orange County Legislature yesterday.

Not a bad trade, said the high school junior, who was among 100 high school students participating in Orange County's Youth in Government Day.

"I think it's a good thing because we get out of things like English tests, which I have in about 10 minutes," he joked.

On a serious note, Lawton said the chance to shadow legislators for a day was important because he and his classmates will some day be voting for lawmakers.

High school students paired up with legislators, department heads and other county officials to see firsthand what they do and how government operates.

In a mock legislative session, students debated the merits of a smoking ban in restaurants.

Student lawmakers narrowly approved a requirement for floor-to-ceiling walls to separate smoking and non-smoking sections.

Dennis Uhlmann, a Cornwall High School senior, said such a requirement could pose a hardship to eatery owners.

"They're going to be losing a lot of revenue if they're closing down just to put up a wall,'' Uhlmann said.

And what about pre-existing businesses that don't have such walls? Shouldn't they get some kind of break to put up a wall, asked Monroe-Woodbury High School junior Holly Gell.

Smoking restrictions of some kind are warranted, argued Henryk Jaronowski, a Monroe-Woodbury High School sophomore and president of the school's Young Democrats.

"We shouldn't have to subject everybody in a restaurant to one person's smoke,'' he said.

As for holding a public hearing, Uhlmann said out loud what many adult lawmakers might only think silently. "Who wants to sit around in a hall that's probably not air-conditioned to listen to people's feelings? It's going to be blah, blah, blah."


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