If Maryland junior and senior high school students were running the state, things would be different:
Women on public assistance could get state-funded abortions.
Products in the supermarket would be open dated, specifying the last date on which the product should be purchased.
Children 3 years old and under would have to ride in safe car seats.
Motorcycle riders would be required to wear helmets.
Mothers would have the same responsibility to pay child support as fathers.
Wife abuse or husband abuse would be classified as assault and punished as a misdemeanor.
These are six of the bills approximately 200 students enacted in Annapolis last week while taking part in the YMCA-sponsored Maryland Youth and Government Program. About 45 of the participants were from Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
The students' model legislature resembles the real thing as closely as possible. Officers -- including governor, lieutenant governor, president of the senate, speaker of the house, sergeant-at-arms, chaplain and clerks of the House and Senate -- were elected at a prelegislative assembly in March.
Other participants served as delegates, senators, cabinet members, committee chairpeople, pages and members of the press corps.
In January, Maryland students began preparing bills to present in Annapolis, with the help of a volunteer adviser assigned to each committee.
Kacy Conley, adviser from the Silver Spring delegation to the Health and Welfare Committee, praised the legislative program because "it encourages learning by participation."
In Annapolis, members of the governor's cabinet reviewed all bills and decided which they would support and which they would oppose. This led to hard lobbying by cabinet members in legislative committee sessions.
One of the most hotly debated issues concerned the office of lieutenant governor. One bill presented tried to strengthen the office and another would have abolished it. Neither bill passed.
This year's youth governor was 16-year-old Garrick Grobler, a sophomore at Talbot County's Easton High School. Grobler promised students that the bills he signed this year would be brought to the attention of the real Maryland legislature.
A bill sponsored last year by Montgomery County students Willa Pollack and Andrea Doneff concerning state funding for the Youth and Government Program also was introduced this year in the adult Maryland legislature in Annapolis, but failed to pass. The legislation is expected to be reintroduced soon.
State Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, Delegate Elizabeth S. Smith of Anne Arundel County and Speaker of the House Benjamin L. Cardin all spoke to sessions of the student legislature.
Gov. Harry Hughes briefly met with Youth Gov. Grobler and Youth Lt. Gov. Christopher Austell of Bowie while Hughes signed bills.
Overseeing the model legislature is state director Peggy Hoffman of Reisterstown. The Maryland Youth and Government Program is one of 45 state programs which each year involve some 25,000 junior and senior high school students.
Maryland Youth Governor Grobler will join youth governors from other states at the YMCA Youth Governor's Conference, to be held in Washington in June.