New Hampshire Fourth-Graders Learn Vital Lesson In Cynicism From State Legislature

Most people agree that it's vital for the youth of America to learn about civic participation and the ins and outs of our representative democracy. Some even believe that getting a civic education can be fun! Last week, a group of New Hampshire grade school students got to learn the most important lesson of all -- that sometimes, government is where hopes, dreams, kindness, charity, and good taste are brutally murdered right in front of you.

As NH1's Shari Smalls reported Thursday, a group of fourth-graders from Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, recently undertook a fun, hands-on exercise in how to turn a bill into a law. They had drafted legislation to make the red-tailed hawk the official "state raptor" of the Granite State. Unfortunately for these well-meaning, bright-eyed kids, standing in their way was the New Hampshire state House of Representatives, which is -- respectfully -- one of the most loop-de-doody legislative bodies in the world.

As I've had the privilege of explaining before, the New Hampshire state House has 400 members. Think about that for a second. The U.S. House of Representatives has 435 voting members. The population of New Hampshire is about 1.3 million, which means that every member of the New Hampshire House represents about 3,000 people. If the U.S. House represented the United States by the same proportion, it would be a 99,000-member body, and the resulting interplay between legislators would make most Thunderdomes look like a model of decorum.

Compounding this problem is the fact that most New Hampshire representatives are paid next to nothing, and so the chamber can be a haven for also-rans, never-weres, never-will-bes and nothing-better-to-dos, as well as cranky weirdos who believe in fun theories like how the Boston Marathon bombing was an inside job.

So while our heroic fourth-grade protagonists did manage to get their bill out of the House's Environment and Agriculture Committee, it's hardly surprising what happened next. As Smalls reports:

Rep. Warren Groen, a Republican from Rochester, said, "[The red-tailed hawk] grasps [its prey] with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood."

Ugh, Rep. Groen, can you not?

Another lawmaker, Rep. John Burt (R-Goffstown), complained that "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." But there's no need to pick a state hot dog, since it's clear that New Hampshire's official state sausage is rendered from the House's own deliberations and wrapped in a casing of tactlessness.

The fourth-graders' bill went down 133-160, and I suppose the silver lining is that there were a hundred or so other legislators too busy doing God-knows-what to join in the destruction of these kids' modest ambitions.

For their next trick, the kids should make things slightly harder for these legislators by proposing the bald eagle as the state's raptor. This will lead to some vital lessons about pandering, posturing and cheap theatrics.

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Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

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