Representative Hans Dunshee listens to local high school studentsJOURNAL STAFF They come every year, dressed in suits and ties, talking to senators and representatives about new lawsto fight crime, decrease pollution, save energy or improve schools.
But they’re not lobbyists or community activists. Most of them can’t even vote.
They’re government students from local high schools and every winter, they pile into school buses to make the trip to the state capitol to bring their ideas to lawmakers.
“These students are smart and courageous,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish). “It takes guts to be a sixteen-year-old and sit down at the table with lawmakers all day, trying to persuade them. And it takes brains to research an issue and write legislation that a lawmaker could introduce and get signed into law by the governor.”
Those aren’t just words of encouragement. It has actually happened.
Dunshee sponsored Courtney’s Law, a bill by Snohomish High students named after a student who was killed in a low-speed car crash when an unsecured speaker in the back seat crushed her.
“A five-cent bolt from Ace Hardware would have saved her life,” Dunshee said. “The students pushed for this, year after year, and it’s only because they didn’t give up that we got Courtney’s Law through both chambers of the legislature and onto the governor’s desk. It was a great day for those kids and I couldn’t have been more proud of what they accomplished.”Student ideas for new laws
Energy Drinks Act of 2009
This law would protect public health by banning the sale of high-caffeine “energy drinks” to children. Students pointed out that these drinks have lead to seizures and even heart attacks, and that more and more children are drinking them.
Studded Tire Act of 2009
The law is aimed at preventing road damage caused by studded tires, which the students say is estimated to cost taxpayers $18 million in 2008. They also claim that studless tires get better gas mileage, cutting fuel costs by 15 percent.
Gambling Age Act of 2009
Raising the gambling age from 18 to 21 would prevent more young people from falling into debt or becoming gambling addicts, the students say. The average problem gambler has $30,000 in debt and the problem is so bad, they claim, that it costs the state $78 million a year to clean up the social damage.
Furs and pelts are typically taken from endangered species. This law would ban the trading of fur and pelts of any predator animals native to the state and region.
Ban plastic bags at stores
Plastic shopping bags are not biodegradable. They’re made from petroleum products and litter our landscape, say Thomas and Moore. They claim their bill would lower costs, because re-useable cloth bags cost less over the long term, and would be healthier for the environment.
CPR in schools
Every year, about 325,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest. For every minute that CPR is not started, survival rates decline 10 percent. This bill would require schools to teach CPR to every high school senior.