Rah for the 2014 Legislative Roadshow!

Rep.  Thielen explains how government works to Kalaheo High School students as part of her annual interactive Legislative Roadshow.

Rep. Thielen explains how government works to Kalaheo High School students as part of her annual interactive Legislative Roadshow.

Kids do say the cutest things…especially about 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.”

“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 GMO’s and without facts a legitimate decision can’t be made.”

Every year I look forward to bringing our Legislative Road Show into windward classrooms. This program encourages 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 for consumption; SB2016 which proposes a constitutional amendment to change the age qualification for voting in any state or local election from eighteen to sixteen years of age; and HB2481 which requires moped operators of all ages to wear a helmet and mandates that no one under the age of fifteen may operate a moped. Students wrote and gave testimony supporting positions for or against the proposed legislation and also proposed legislative 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 regarding the labeling of GMO products. 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 the age of fifteen 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 students argued that there is not a difference between the age of fifteen and eighteen and that even fifth graders should be allowed to drive mopeds.  There was much discussion on the cost of moped helmets and how this law might discriminate against those that were struggling financially.

SB2016, which proposed to change the voting age, was met with similar arguments as SB2418. Some students opined that young voters may be tempted to vote for a candidate irresponsibly on the basis hair color, or cool names.  On the other hand, testifiers felt that younger voters have the capability of educating themselves and referenced their own class elections as proof.

Usually, I begin each Legislative Roadshow by asking the children to identify who is my “boss”. Most of them 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!