Making Future Voters Think Hard About Our Laws
Kids do say the cutest things … especially about the Legislative Roadshow:
“Hello. I am the kid that was shaking while giving the testimony on SB2425. It was a very interesting feeling testifying in front of a real representative. I hope that you guys keep visiting schools because I think it is an experience that everyone must have.”
“Thank you for listening to testimony from the ‘little people’ and for taking time out of your busy schedule to show us how a bill becomes a law.”
“You guys represent our town. The process of listening to the people and then making decisions truly makes you a great representative. Keep up the good work!”
“You showed me that I can give my opinion and make a difference … not just in government but in other things as well.”
“Thank you for listening to what our school had to say about the bills we testified on. I believe that it is really inspiring and heart-warming to know that our voices count for something.”
“I think it is really nice for someone in government to interact directly with children instead of just staying in an office all day long.”
“After the Legislative Roadshow, my interest in the government has increased, and I now am feeling powerful as a citizen of the United States.”
It is because of such overwhelmingly positive feedback that I look forward to bringing the Legislative Roadshow into Windward classrooms. This year, the roadshow stopped at Aikahi, St. Anthony’s, Kailua Intermediate and Kainalu Elementary schools, and Le Jardin Academy for an interactive program designed to help students of all ages learn about the lawmaking process by providing testimony at a mock public hearing on bills currently before the House and Senate.
This year students testified on a variety of age-appropriate bills, including SB2516 – which limits where and when commercial water sports equipment can be operated, HB2276 – which would require skate-boarders to wear helmets, SB2079 – which establishes minimum physical education instruction for public school students, SB2425 – which specifies where tobacco advertising can be located, and HB2330 – which requires that predicted sea level rises be considered in the development of building, zoning and permitting plans. Each school was assigned two of these bills, and students wrote and gave testimony supporting positions for and against the proposed legislation.
Discussions on all topics were not only lively but enlightening. One of the hottest topics was SB2516, (commercial water sports equipment). Most of the testifiers felt that vendors should not be allowed to rent kayaks or other equipment at the beach parks; although some felt that small businesses would be negatively impacted if this law passed.
Regarding HB2276, most students supported skate-board helmet use, although some felt that it should not be mandated by law. There was much discussion on the cost of skateboard helmets and how this law might discriminate against those that were struggling financially.
SB2079, mandating public school P.E. classes, received divided support from students. Those testifying for the bill pointed to increasing childhood obesity and said that regular exercise was important for student health. Those who testified against this bill said that adding a P.E. class would be costly to implement and take time away from academic requirements.
Older students considered SB2425, which would limit where and how tobacco products could be advertised. Although most students felt that tobacco advertising should not be allowed in stores that children frequent, some did recognize that this issue may conflict with constitutional freedom of speech protections. The other bill that was considered by intermediate students was HB2330, relating to climate change. Although most students recognized that climate change has caused and will create some sea level rise, they were divided on how sea level rise should be addressed in a long-term plan. They did feel this was important because, although it may take 30 years for the rise to make an impact, it would affect their generation more than any other.
I usually start each classroom session asking students where they live, which usually is in the district I represent. I look around at all the raised hands and say, “You know what, you are my bosses.” This year many of the thank-you letters I received from students were signed, “Your Boss.” followed by the student’s name. If these young people learned nothing else from our roadshow, they learned that I work for them and that they are “my bosses!”
Contact Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, 50th District, Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) at 586-6480 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cynthia Thielen has represented the 50th District for 22 years and serves on the House’s Housing, and Consumer Protection & Commerce committees and is a ranking member of the committees for Energy & Environmental Protection; Water, Land & Ocean Resources; and Judiciary.