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. 


Unknown said...

The argument was that we waste times on these kinds of bills, but we could have wasted less time if we didn't debate them.
Shame on us.

Steve K said...

At first I thought I would put Bill O'Brien up for State Reptile though I would be loathe to denigrate the reptile population by including him into their population. Reptiles have so much more to give to humanity.

Anonymous said...

OMG this is completely unbelievable and completely unacceptable. Those poor kids. To be confronted with maniacal ranting following by poor humor is both appalling and disgusting.

I can't imagine how those kids must feel and now that we are faced with adults(in the legislature mind you) behaving worse than sand box bullies, it's time to ask the sky to beam us all up because there really isn't any intelligent life down here.

I wonder how they would have reacted had the kids introduced a bill regarding education funding etc? The same no doubt.

Groen - truly sickly Green and Burt should both resign immediately as way of apology. Nothing less is acceptable AND their supporters ought to apologize. Letting this behavior slide, shows patronizing support of plain disgusting behavior on the part of adults who clearly had poor upbringing.

Meg Jenkins said...

What an embarrassment! Those Reps should appreciate that schools want to bring our children to see the legislative proces.......we ARE NH, correct? Live free????.....and this Is part of our history!! We encourage learning, have for many years. Maybe in another legislative environment, a teacher will feel it is ok to do so......WOW, maybe if they had not spent so much time trying to elect BIll Whatshis name as their " leader", they would have more time for IMPORTANT issues, such as teaching our children the process.......SHAME SHAME SHAME......they owe this kids an apology, not that I think it will come

nelle said...

In the time it took to deliver that initial speech, the bill could've passed. What an embarrassing display, and I can't watch any more of it.

victoria said...

Really appalling that puffed up, amateurish Legislators who give long rambling speeches and propose many small-minded, mean spirited bills themselves claim that this bill and the children who proposed it are wasting precious time. Well, this has been recorded for posterity. Perhaps someone will watch this video 20, or 50 years from now, to understand the strange subspecies of human that inhabited the NH Legislature in the year 2015.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully those fourth graders will be inspired to run for office and become the type of legislators they probably had wished they had seen and heard on that very day. Let's hope that this can indeed be a teaching moment for everyone. Vote these losers out of office.

Anonymous said...

This is terrible, planned parenthood, really? I'm so sorry these kids had to go through that. Hopefully this makes it to the news to shed light on the insensitivity and downright bullying ways of these legislators.

Anonymous said...

The Democrats Led the way on opposing this bill !!!!! Not A Shining Moment For The NH House

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the rest of the country won't realize how privileged NH is... definitely the least diverse group of people working in there... and definitely they have nothing better to be doing than arguing about a bird. Then the coverage on this... are you kidding, Detroit is teaching kids sex-ed in kindergarten because not everyone is lucky enough to have a bird be their top concern for 4th graders...

Anonymous said...

This public school should face reprimand; schools should not be in the business of making public business or creating law just for 'fun' or project; they are part of the government, making more; a self-licking ice-cream cone... They were already paid tax payer money to teach this, then they created a litigation process that absorbed more money in time/tracking and publishing articles; had it been adopted it could easily top tens of thousands of dollars... each printed letter costs money, the vast expanse of departments that need reprinted articles every time a law is changed or created adds up. it looks like media is making this polar politics instead of helping us again. not correcting the true problem, only providing a fundraising potential for those who first talked down the bill (not the crass rep's)