In March of 1993, just before I graduated from Drake U, I was an intern for The Gazette’s Statehouse bureau.
Twenty years? Really?
Here’s a story that appeared on page 1, 20 years ago today, on March 16, 1993 (the bottle bill expansion never did become law):
Teen lobbyists guide bill over 1st hurdle
By: Todd Dorman Gazette news intern
DES MOINES – High school lobbyists from Cedar Rapids Washington went head to head with the pros Monday and left victorious.
A half-dozen students spent the morning trying to persuade members of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee to look favorably on a “bottle bill” amendment drawn up in Washington senior government classes.
Despite opposition lobbying by the grocery industry, the committee voted 16-5 Monday afternoon to release House File 123, complete with the students’ amendment, for debate by the whole chamber.
“We were kind of in the big leagues,” said Washington senior Erin McCuskey. “It was exciting. The representatives took us seriously. They weren’t condescending at all.”
THE EXERCISE began 12 weeks ago, when students were studying how a bill becomes law, said Washington government teacher Gary Goldstein. To help them understand the process, Goldstein suggested that students draw up a bill and try to get it passed by the Iowa Legislature.
“We talked about ideas and came up with an extension of the bottle bill,” Goldstein said.
The amendment would make virtually all drinkable-liquid containers, except paper milk cartons, subject to Iowa’s 5-cent deposit by July 1998. The deposit currently is collected on pop and alcoholic-beverage bottles and cans.
The Legislative Service Bureau put the students’ ideas into the proper legal language, and Rep. Mary Lundby, R-Marion, agreed to co-sponsor the legislation.
Goldstein and the students traveled to Des Moines with high hopes Monday, partly because of the current interest in recycling and also because of bipartisan support from two Linn County legislators, Lundby and Rep. David Osterberg, D-Mount Vernon. Both are on the House environmental protection committee.
Throughout the morning, committee members were called off the floor to hear students press the merits of their amendment.
TO MAKE THE MOST of their brief contacts with legislators, students had boned up on lobbying techniques and called on Cedar Rapids Solid Waste Program Manager Dave Hogan to help them develop environmentally persuasive arguments. They also talked about how to
dress to make the best impression and practiced role-playing to deal more effectively with skeptical legislators.
The preparation paid off, according to student Brian Huber.
“It was a lot tougher than I anticipated,” he said. “We had two of the toughest lobbyists against us. We handled ourselves well.”
Shad Issa was impressed by how “cool” legislators were.
“They had a sense of humor,” he said. “I got the feeling some of the representatives would be against the amendment, but then in the meeting they voted for it.”
Lundby expressed pride in the Washington students. “I’ve been here seven years and this is the first time I’ve seen this,” she said.
Before the afternoon vote, Osterberg told fellow committee members that the Washington students, “have a strong feeling toward what is good for Iowa.”
Monday’s success doesn’t mean students can relax their efforts, Goldstein emphasized. Even more students will have to become involved if the bill is to progress through the House and Senate to the governor’s desk.
“We will need to write more letters, make more phone calls,” he said. “We’ve laid out a strategy; this is just the beginning.”
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