Kalaheo ‘Constituents’ Get Up To Speed On Bills

Thielen’s Turf…Rep. Cynthia Thielen


Kids do say the cutest things, especially at the Legislative Roadshow!

“I learned that there is no clapping after testimony or else you get kicked out.”

“Hi! I am the kid with the glasses and cast. I learned that testimonies are presented and not just sent in and read.”


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Rep. Cynthia Thielen

“It was really cool that you came in, and I found it interesting that your testimony could actually be put into law itself, which is really cool.”

“I learned so much about the process of testifying for or against a bill. My favorite thing was listening to the opinions of other people who were opposite of what I testified for (the British girl who went last).”

“I am the kid with the yellow socks. I learned that nobody really has the cold hard facts on GMOs and without facts a legitimate decision can’t be made.”

Every year I look forward to bringing our Legislative Roadshow into Windward classrooms to encourage children to express their opinion by providing testimony during a mock committee hearing on bills currently before the House or the Senate. Students not only get to research relevant topics and write passionate testimony, but they also participate in dynamic debates and take part in the legislative process.

This year students testified on a variety of age-appropriate bills, including SB3084, which requires food retailers to label GMO food sold to consumers; SB2016, which proposes a constitutional amendment to change the age qualification for voting in any state or local election from 18 to 16; and HB2481, which requires moped operators of all ages to wear a helmet and mandates that no one under the age of 15 may operate one. Students wrote and gave testimony supporting positions for or against the proposed legislation and also proposed amendments.

Discussions revealed that students had well-articulated opinions on both sides of the issues and were more than willing to listen to their peers. The most controversial topic was SB2084 on GMO labeling. Testifiers were conflicted on who should have the responsibility of labeling, the producers or the retailers. Additionally, some students strongly believed that requiring GMO labeling would unfairly increase the price of food for consumers.

Regarding HB2418, students were split on whether a person under 15 should be allowed to operate a moped. Some students referenced their “immature” older siblings in arguing that mopeds should only be for adults. On the other hand, some argued that there is no difference between 15 and 18 and that even fifth-graders should be allowed to drive mopeds.

There also was much discussion on the cost of helmets.

SB2016, which proposed to change the voting age, was met with arguments similar to the moped issue. Some said young voters may be tempted to vote for a candidate irresponsibly on the basis of hair color or cool names. Others felt that younger voters can educate themselves, just as they do in their Kalaheo class elections.

Usually, I begin each roadshow by asking the children to identify who is my “boss.” Most immediately guess the governor, but I look around at all the raised hands and say, “You know what, you are my bosses.” The students took this role of “boss” seriously and presented well-researched testimony. I was very impressed with the creative and insightful testimony in the classrooms I visited. Not only did the students gain insight into the legislative process, they taught me quite a few lessons as well!

Contact Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-50th District (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) at 586-6480 or email repthielen@capitol.hawaii.gov.