Students propose solutions for a better Washington
The state laws that you and I live by are not always conceived by policy makers in Olympia. Some of the best legislation begins at the grassroots level by citizens who see a need for change. If a majority of the Legislature approves their idea, it may become law.
I applaud our public school civics teachers who are engaging young people to take an interest in their government. Students are learning they can make a difference through the legislative process.
Several days ago, a local high school group visited my office in Olympia. They brought with them a packet with bill proposals. I was impressed because these ideas were well thought-out.
Here are some examples of bill proposals they brought to me:
- Elimination of front license plates. With Washington's budget shortfall expected to exceed $7 billion, we're all looking for ways to cut costs with minimal impact to the public. Nineteen other states do not require front license plates. The students see this as a way to use less resources and save the state $2.5 million. I'm checking with the state patrol and law enforcement to get their input on this issue.
- Elimination of the state art funding requirement. Currently, Washington law mandates that state construction contracts set aside one-half of one percent of public funds for art. This includes art on our highway overpasses and even in our prisons. The students say this proposal could save the state $6.5 million a year. Money could be applied to more practical uses, such as funding safety projects on Highway 2 that could save lives. A similar proposal, House Bill 1376, has been introduced that would remove the requirement to purchase art for public buildings during the 2009-2011 biennium.
- Creating a training wage for teenagers. At $8.55 an hour, Washington has the highest minimum wage in the nation. The students say this higher minimum wage hurts the chances of teenagers and first-time workers of getting a job. They propose to have a training wage that could be a percentage of the minimum wage which would allow young people a better opportunity of getting their foot in the door of a new job.
- Requiring schools to teach and students to pass a financial literacy course. This proposal is among my favorite. When students graduate from school, they need to know how to balance a checkbook, how to take out a loan, and/or manage credit. These are basic daily skills young people must have to avoid financial difficulties in their lives.
If you ever doubt the future of our nation, look to our young people. We have bright, sincere students in our schools who care about their future and have great solutions for a better Washington. In all, these students brought me more than 20 suggestions for legislation. That's how laws begin.
I encourage all citizens to become part of our legislative process. If you see a need for change in our state laws, contact my office. Together we can work for a better Washington.