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'There Oughta Be a Law': youth edition

Four high school seniors aiming to tackle youth vaping are among the winners of Rep. Pam Marsh’s “There Oughta Be a Law” competition held in November.

“That was exciting, because we were actually impacting things we really cared about,” said Molly Bloom, a senior at Ashland High School.

She and her classmates Chloe Boucher, Danae Haldane and Katie Cropper submitted the idea for a bill to tighten restrictions on online vaping stores to try to curb use by minors.

“I know so many people who use vape products,” said Bloom. She, Haldane and Cropper all said that their younger siblings tell them that students frequently vape in middle school bathrooms.

Theirs was one of 54 ideas constituents submitted to Marsh, who in November was re-elected to her position representing District 5, to consider taking with her to Salem for the 2019 legislative session.

Marsh modeled the contest, which ran from Sept. 1 until Nov. 1, after a similar one that a former colleague in the California Legislature held in years past.

“The main takeaway is that changing laws or having ideas about what laws should be that govern us is really something we can all participate in,” Marsh said.

Bella Mannray, also a senior at Ashland High School, helped Marsh spread the word about the contest through fliers and public speaking events, sorted through submissions, and notified her classmates about their winning idea as her senior project.

“Getting to see the level of involvement and passion for certain issues was really interesting,” she said. Mannray is pursuing a career in law, the next step of which begins at Barnard College in New York City in the fall.

She wanted her peers to know they can help shape policy that directly affects their communities.

“That was really my hope, just to increase education, engagement and interest,” she said.

Bloom and her classmates had an additional motivating factor — a grade on their assignment — but they were also passionate about the issue they chose to address.

“We originally wanted to find some ways to stop vaping, because it has no positive impact unless you’re using it to get off of smoking cigarettes,” Bloom said.

It was unlikely they would ever be able to accomplish that in the Legislature, she said, so they decided instead to hone in on ways to curb underage use.

The students’ bill would extend current Oregon statutes to vaping product vendors that are already applicable to mail-order tobacco vendors. It would require those vendors to engage in what Marsh described as “reasonable due diligence,” the same standard applied to those mailing or shipping tobacco products.

The laws include a variety of stipulations. Tobacco product vendors must require signed certification from purchasers that they are of legal age, and check that information against a database of government-collected information that includes the age or date of birth of the purchaser. Upon delivery, the person who accepts the package must present government-issued identification to verify the age and residence.

“I think it can really have an impact and help the health of a lot of young kids,” Haldane said.

Marsh will also take two other pieces of proposed legislation up to Salem. A bill proposed by local meteorologist Jay Stockton with the National Weather Service would remove home addresses from cosmetology licenses, which are required to be displayed in their places of business.

Ashland resident Rick Landt suggested a bill setting a higher salary threshold for salaried employees to qualify for overtime exemption. The bill proposes setting a minimum salary requirement for employers to be exempted from paying overtime: a base salary that is twice the minimum wage.

“A reasonable salary threshold will protect low-income workers from unreasonable and uncompensated overtime mandates,” said a release from Marsh’s office.

The contest winners may be invited to Salem to testify about their bills, said Mannray.

The student crew, at least, is interested.

“We’d really like to,” Haldane said.

“It’s kind of exciting especially knowing that if Oregon does something like this to help protect the younger kids ... maybe other states will follow,” Cropper said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneDanae Haldane, senior, Katie Cropper, junior and Molly Bloom, senior, demonstrate how easy it is for underage teenagers to buy vaping products online.