A revamped version of a bill allowing minors to petition for emancipation -- drafted last year by five Drake University law students -- was one of nine bills signed into law Tuesday by Iowa Gov. Chet Culver.
Senate File 366 passed unanimously in both the Iowa House and Senate, much like the original bill (Senate File 2364) that law students supported while working in Drake's Legislative Practice Center to lobby for children's rights.
The previous bill -- which was not signed by Gov. Culver last year -- required that the emancipation procedure be tied to a Family in Need of Assistance Proceeding.
The new bill uses a less complicated procedure to emancipate minors. The revised bill gives a youth the opportunity to file an independent action for emancipation and provides more protections for youth and more opportunities for re-establishing familial relationships.
Recent Drake law graduate Lauren Yates was the primary student who worked on the revised bill. This bill allows a minor, who is at least 16, is a resident of Iowa and not in the care of the state, to petition for emancipation.
Yates worked through the Legislative Practice Center -- supervised by faculty member Julie Smith -- to shepherd the bill through both houses in cooperation with Drake's Middleton Center for Children's Rights and Elevate, an organization devoted to helping foster children.
Representatives from Drake, United Way, and Elevate who attended the special bill signing ceremony included:
- Lauren Yates, 2009 Drake Law School graduate
- Jerry Foxhoven, director of Drake's Middleton Center for Children's Rights and executive director of the Legal Clinic
- Julie Smith, director of Drake's Legislative Practice Center
- Annie von Gillern, social worker for Drake's Middleton Center
- Lisa Sieren, United Way of Central Iowa
- SaBreena Boyd, Elevate member
- Sen. Keith Kreiman, D-Bloomfield
"It's extremely exciting," Boyd said. "Especially for Elevate members, because we've been in situations at times when this would have helped us. We've been homeless and we've had the skills to do grown up things and be self-dependent but we haven't had that extra push or piece of paper."
As part of their legislative practice experience, Drake law students draft bills, recruit sponsors, attend subcommittee meetings, secure constituent support and lobby legislators.
"Whenever there's legislation proposed by the Middleton Center, we know it makes a lot of sense and will help a lot of kids," said Kreiman, who has helped support the bill for two years.
In addition to the help they received from faculty and legislators, the students gained support from United Way of Central Iowa, which provided an advocacy grant of $10,000 for 2008-09.