Rep Kirk Caldwell, Majority Leader, and I were invited to be "testifiers" at Susan Jaworowski's mini-mock legislature last night. Not only was it fun to do, but it was a great experience to view the legislative process from another perspective. If you get a call from Susan to participate, I heartily recommend that you do.
The class is part of a Kapiolani Community College paralegal program. The mock legislature was held at the UH Law School, and Susan assigns you to play the role of a testifier, either pro or con. In our case, we were testifying on an actual bill from last session, SB2408, which proposes to ban smoking in public housing. I played "Chris North", a single mother of 2 children, one of whom has asthma. We have neighbors on both sides of us who smoke, and the smoke infiltrates our unit triggering severe reactions for my daughter. Rep. Caldwell played "Pat Smith", who believes it is unconstitutional to ban smoking within your own private residence, and that the bill discriminates against poor people who have no where else to live.
We testified before the Senate Health Committee, the bill was amended and crossed over to the House, and then we testified again before the House Health Committee. After that, we were free to leave, and I'm told the bill was amended again, and then the students actually go into Conference. (All of this transpires within a few hours - ok, that part was not realistic.)
Another group testified on HB792, a 2007 bill that proposes to exempt bars, nightclubs and restaurants from the smoking law. Playing themselves were Dr. Julian Lipsher - Department of Health, who was for the bill, and Deborah Zysman, Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii, who testified against the bill.
We applaud Susan Jaworowski for making this part of her class curriculum. It's a great way for students to familiarize themselves with the legislative process, and the importance of public participation.