BY: Citizens Count
This year fourth grade students from Lincoln Akerman School in Hampton Falls drafted a bill to declare the red-tailed hawk the state raptor. The bill sparked strong opinions about the role of children in the legislative process.
Supporters - including Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) - argued that passing the bill would encourage young people to take ownership of their government, learn about civics, and become active voters when they turn eighteen.
Rep. Christy D. Bartlett (D-Concord) disagreed, saying, "During a budget year when our energy and efforts should be directed elsewhere, it would seem that a more valuable educational lesson would be that not all bills are passed."
Her remarks were mild compared to other comments made on the House floor, in front of the fourth graders. Several representatives ridiculed the bill. After describing the red-tailed hawk's method for dissecting its prey, Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester) suggested the raptor would be a better mascot for Planned Parenthood.
Gov. Maggie Hassan told the Seacoast Online editorial board, "It just seems to me unbelievably misguided for the Legislature to not only criticize their bill but criticize the notion that young people should get engaged in this way."
House Speaker Shawn Jasper called on Groen to apologize.
Groen defended his comments by saying, "The gallery is open to the public and there are children in the gallery every day. I don’t know if we should limit free speech or limit the attendance in the gallery. It seems either one would be bad for transparency in government."
Do you think the raptor bill was a valid civics lesson or a waste of time? How should children be included in the legislative process, if at all? Leave your comments below.