Our opinion: Granite Staters should be ashamed
If you want to see how to encourage youngsters to get involved in the legislative process, just straddle the Connecticut River and look to Montpelier in the west.
And if you want to learn how best to discourage them from getting involved, then look to Concord in the east.
On March 17, a dozen students from Wardsboro Elementary School traveled to Montpelier to lobby for designating the Gilfeather turnip as the state vegetable. Wardsboro was home to John Gilfeather who is credited with developing the turnip that bears his name.
Rep. Emily Long, a Democrat from Newfane and a co-sponsor of the turnip bill, said she was "absolutely thrilled to see the kids here. I heard they were really good, I saw one of their teachers, and she was glowing!"
The students were told by Rep. Carolyn Partridge, a Democrat from Windham, that the bill would not pass this year, but she said many members of the committee supported it. In fact, Partridge said Gilfeather turnips had a celebrity status at her family's Thanksgiving and Christmas tables growing up, and she said she would make a soup from them and bring it to the committee so they can taste the gnarly root vegetable for themselves.
Members of the committee were given wool-felted Gilfeather turnip pins, one of many items handcrafted and sold as part of fundraisers for the annual festival, which benefits the town's library.
Now let's compare the reception the Wardsboro students received to the reception a handful of fourth-grade students received when they went to Concord to lobby to name the red-tailed hawk the state bird. What was the reaction they got? Incredibly, one legislator likened the bill to abortion.
State Rep. Warren Groen, from Rochester (need we really name his party?) said the red-tailed hawk "mostly likes field mice and small rodents. It grasps them with its talons and then uses its razor sharp beak to rip its victims to shreds and then basically tear it apart, limb from limb. And I guess the shame about making this the state bird is it would make a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood."
Yes, Groen took the opportunity to push his anti-choice agenda at the expense of a group of 9 and 10-year-old students from Hampton Falls.
What was Groen's reaction to criticism of his comment? "Every time we're in session the gallery is open, and there are children in the gallery. So, I don't know, should we limit free speech or should we limit who goes in the gallery?"
So rather than show a little sensitivity to who might be listening in the gallery, Groen intimates that they shouldn't let children observe the goings-on of the New Hampshire Legislature.
To add insult to injury, another state representative was dismissive of the students' attempt to get involved in state politics.
"Bottom line: If we keep bringing more of these bills, and bills, and bills forward that really I think we shouldn't have in front of us, we'll be picking a state hot dog next," John Burt, of Goffstown (want to guess his political affiliation) told NH1 News.
But let's not limit our disdain to just the members of the party that hates government so much they try their damndest to get into office just to dismantle it. Christy Bartlett, a representative from Concord and a Democrat, said that while she likes to encourage all residents to get involved in the provess "(I) would ask that consideration be given to more pressing matters on which we must debate both in our committees and in the full house during our budget year."
If the largest state legislature in the United States can't take a few minutes out of its day to consider legislation from a handful of youngsters, perhaps those members who spurned those children should be booted from office. It's not enough that the state of politics today disenfranchises so many of our nation's youngsters who feel they don't really have a say in the process, without elected officials stomping on their harmless intentions.
Those members of the N.H. Legislature deserve a wagging of the finger — shame on you.
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