Tuesday night I got the message that the Fourth and Fifth Graders in our Safe Routes to School program at James F. Cooper School needed to get to the state capitol for a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Government Operations and Consumer Protection. The kids from Ms. Pollman’s and Mrs. Bigalk’s classes were proposing that bicycling be designated the state exercise, and join the Polka as the state dance, the Robin as the state bird, Antigo Loam Silt as the state soil, and all the rest of the long list in the Wisconsin Blue Book.
Specifically, 2015 Senate Bill 600 would designate bicycling as the state exercise, but the only hitch was the hearing was scheduled for Thursday at 10am! Ms. Pollman really had to scramble and find a bus, get permission slips out and returned, and prep the kids – all in a single school day!
The kids had pitched the idea to the state legislature last fall, and thanks to our democratic process, their bill was introduced with bipartisan support form Senators Larson, LeMahieu, Risser, Hansen, L. Taylor, Wirch and Harris Dodd, and cosponsored by Representatives Brostoff, Sargent, Berceau, C. Taylor, Sinicki and Ohnstad.
You may have seen the previous blog post where we asked our readers and followers to contact Committee Chair Sen. Stroebel to request a hearing. Well before I myself could even call, while trying to get so many others to call, we found out it was scheduled!
So Thursday morning I rode over to the school on Milwaukee’s far Southwest side to meet the kids and hop on the bus with them to Madison for support and to testify on behalf of the Bike Fed.
The bus ride there was full of excitement. As the big yellow bus got closer to the Capitol heading down East Washington Avenue, the excitement grew. Ooos and Ahhhs regarding the Capitol resounded through the bus. We pulled up with only a few minutes to spare before the hearing would begin. Perhaps luckily, and as often happens things get delayed in government. This gave the kids a chance to get one more run through , do interviews for NBC 15 in Madison, and meet a few Senators and Representatives. Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) spoke with the kids and saying “you are my heroes, because you worked hard as a team and had a vision”.
Rep. Daniel Reimer (D- Milwaukee) then came in to speak with his youthful constituents, as he represents the district Cooper School resides in. Like a sort of local sports hero the kids asked him for autographs, and he was happy to oblige all 28 of them. We were then notified that the hearing was moving slower than expected (this IS government, people!) So the kids then got a visit from Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) who applauded their efforts as well.
Finally we were told the committee was ready for us. The kids filed in and surrounded the committee members. There was no way out – they were going to have to listen to their presentation!
And just like that they were off! A well rehearsed machine taking turns Run DMC-style, as each kid read a sentence or two with the whole group chiming in for section transitions “DID YOU KNOW?” and even a joke or two, the sense of humor by the kids was realized when the committee members chuckled at the plea from the kids “please don’t let this bill die in committee”
With a room full of cute kids proudly taking part in our democratic system, you may think that adding this to the Blue Book is all but a done deal.
It is not quite that easy though, so the kids need you to contact Rep. Devin LeMahieu (R- Oostburg) to request a vote in the Committee. He is an avid triathlete with a pretty sweet bike, so it shouldn’t be too hard to twist his arm. If it passes that Committee it moves on to Executive Committee and then moves on to a floor vote, where if passes, it goes on to the Governor for his signature. We don’t have much time this session, so call or email him today and support the Cooper Cougars in their goal to make bicycling the official state exercise!
In the Bike Fed’s Safe Routes to School Program our primary goal is to teach thousands of kids how to ride and walk legally and safely, but this is a good example of how we build other learning targets into our safety curriculum. Kids in our classes have written assignments, learn how to use maps, learn some basic bicycle maintenance and a host of other useful life skills.
We are proud of the kids at Cooper Elementary, we want to thank all the Co-Sponsors of SB600 and the Committee on Government Operations and Consumer Protection for their time and consideration of this bill.