Legislative Roadshow Drives Student Input

Kalaheo9 cropped

With droves of young people currently exercising their right to have their voices heard in national government, our yearly Legislative Roadshow is perfectly timed to give students in our 50th District a hands-on experience of participating in the legislative process. This helps them to understand and contribute to our government in the future.

The highest-ever number of Kailua schools are participating in our 2016 Roadshow, as more educators learn of the opportunity for their students to testify before our mock committee about Senate and House bills. This friendly committee is made up of myself and my staff, who listen to the students testify for or against the bills, and engage with them through questions that lead to more thought and dialogue. Senator Laura Thielen and her staff also joined us in visiting some of the local schools.

This year, 345 students are participating from seven schools: Aikahi Elementary, Kailua Intermediate, Kainalu Elementary, Kalaheo High, Le Jardin Academy, St. Anthony and Trinity Christian School. To accommodate them, our mobile show spans two months.
At Kalaheo High recently, students met us in their library, where they testified on age-appropriate bills – vegetative buffer zones, honeybees and industrial hemp. In preparation for the mock hearings, some of the students researched the bills’ topics and wrote their testimony.

Some of their insightful testimony about HB1594, relating to prohibiting the application of insecticides without a permit to protect honeybees and other pollinators, included:

• “According to the 2014 article Pollination: Why are bees important, many know bees and other pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of feed we eat as a result of pollination. … If the pesticides that farmers are using kill the bees, then people would have to genetically modify our fruit and vegetables. … I would greatly appreciate it if farmers got a license to use these harsh chemicals that are killing our precious bees.”

• “These small insects cover about three-quarters of the world’s food crops due to their pollination process. … I do believe we should have some rules of use. … a permit must be needed to use pesticides on crops. … Without honeybees, we’d have a hard time sustaining the 7 billion people in the world. … I urge you to pass this bill.”

Then, our April 1st visits took us to Kainalu Elementary, Kailua Intermediate and Le Jardin Academy, where students researched and testified about HB38, relating to fireworks, and HB2723, which forbids a pedestrian from crossing a street while using a mobile electronic device, including cell phones. It was clear from the keiki’s testimony that they had taken time to carefully prepare, research and write.

I’m very grateful to the principals and teachers, whose time, thoughtfulness and cooperation determined the success of this experience for their students.

As the Legislative Roadshow nears two decades in our Windward District schools, it remains a privilege to share my passion for the legislative process and to see the light bulb go off in students, when they realize that it’s relatively easy to make their voices heard and that they make a difference. I remain excited about encouraging our youth, who continually make keen observations and offer great perspectives. As one student shared with me:

“Thank you so much for giving me an experience of government with the Legislative Roadshow. I learned how hard it is to pass a bill. The fact that you do this as a daily job is frightening to me and must be very stressful. … It was very fun and I had a great time!”