Monday, March 16, 2015
NH Legislators Teach Fourth Grade Class a Lesson
Mr. Cutting's fourth grade class at the Lincoln Ackerman School in Hampton Falls did something this year that many other fourth grade classes have done over the years. They decided to get involved in the legislative process by proposing a bill and following along as it progressed through the legislature. Their bill, HB 373 , would have named the red tailed hawk as the official NH state raptor.
NH is a state that has an official state song and 8 honorary state songs. We have an official state butterfly, a state insect, and a state amphibian. We have an official state saltwater game fish and an official state fresh water game fish. We are not afraid of state symbols or songs.
This year there was a glut of similar legislation. A state poem, a state fossil, and an official state wild cat were also headed to the House floor. The bill to name the bobcat as the official state wild cat passed. The others are doomed. It may be that the wildcat bill was assigned to the Fish and Game committee. It might be that the wildcat bill emanated from a private school. In a legislature dominated by public school hating Republicans, that might have made a difference. Or maybe it was just too many bills all at once for a legislature already strained by political strife and epic levels of incivility.
Mr. Cutting's class testified before the Environment and Agriculture Committee, and did such a good job that the bill came out of committee with a recommendation of OTP (ought to pass) on a vote of 10-8. This wasn't a ringing committee endorsement, but it was an endorsement, nonetheless. On March 12, the day of the session, the bill was special ordered to be the first bill taken up. The gallery was packed with Mr. Cutting's fourth grade class and their parents.
From the moment the bill was introduced by the Speaker, things went really, really wrong. Angry legislators (from both parties) excoriated the students for wasting their time. For those who need a reminder, these kids are 9 and 10 years old. Representative Christy Bartlett testified at length. After criticizing the choice of the red tailed hawk, she seemed intent on teaching the kids a lesson that NOT EVERY BILL PASSES.
Representative Warren Groen gave his first bizarre performance of the day. (It was not his last) He spoke about how the red tailed hawk has talons and a razor sharp beak. He described how the hawk grasps its prey with the talons then rips its victim to shreds - tears it apart limb by limb. Representative Groen then announced that the hawk would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood. Yes, this was how Groen chose to address the fourth graders and their parents who were sitting in the gallery - with this peculiar and inappropriate tirade.
Then along came Representative John Burt, who thinks he has a great sense of humor. Burt announced that a constituent named "Big Chicken" sent him to speak. This was supposed to be funny because hawk, big chicken...okay, well it wasn't funny. He then went on to complain that NH has a 10 billion dollar budget we should be working on, and that if we keep bringing more of these bills forward, which we shoon't, we'll be having a state hot dog next. This is supposed to be funny, because Burt puts on a self-aggrandizing hot dog shindig every year on the State House lawn.
These were fourth graders, visiting the People's House. Representative Burt's performance was obnoxious and disrespectful.
This is how adults serving in our legislature chose to comport themselves in front of a fourth grade class. These students were there because they embarked upon a project that was intended to teach them about how the NH legislature functions (or dysfunctions) and how a bill becomes law. They had one heck of a learning experience.
See for yourself - the video starts with HB 373 - it's only a few minutes.
These fourth graders, their families, and their school deserve an apology. If our legislators can't manage to do better than bullying ten year olds, they ought to resign.