At Thomaston High, Sen. Martin Reviews Legislative Process (Waterbury Republican-American)

January 28, 2016

Thomaston students debate tax on texting

Real legislators watch as mock bill is defeated

BY LARAINE WESCHLER
REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

THOMASTON — A hypothetical proposal to tax text messages at 1 cent apiece to make up for the state’s budget shortfall was not popular with Thomaston High School students on Friday.

The mock bill failed, with only two students voting in favor.

The exercise was part of a visit by state Rep. John Piscopo, R-Thomaston, and Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol, to two classrooms on Friday — Terri’s Franzi’s American and world history class, and Rick Wilson’s civics and law class.

“We work for you,” Piscopo told the students, mostly seniors.

The legislators said there are only two ways to patch a budget — cut spending or raise taxes.

The two Republicans were in favor of the former, but they made students argue both sides of the bill.

It’s nerve-wracking speaking in front of your peers, Martin acknowledged, but it’s something that must be done.

State Rep. John Piscopo, R-Thomaston, left, and state Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol, talk to Thomaston High School students on Friday. Laraine Weschler Republican-AmericanState Rep. John Piscopo, R-Thomaston, left, and state Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol, talk to Thomaston High School students on Friday. Laraine Weschler Republican-American

“Those emotions are real and they don’t go away,” he said.

Piscopo got a mock promotion to speaker of the House to lead the class debate. He said he uses “three Cs” to determine which way he’ll vote — his conscience, constituents and caucus, in that order.

Student Kathleen Brody said supporting the tax would decrease childhood obesity by encouraging kids to get off their phones and go outside more.

Another proponent said it would reduce accidents because people would text less.

From the opponents’ side, student Miranda Kutlovci said buying a phone is already expensive, and taxing texts would be a major privacy issue. It also would deter people from buying unlimited texting plans and drive businesses out of state, she said.

The tax easily could be avoided by switching to third-party messengers such as Facebook and Snapchat, student Elizabeth Fray said.

Student Ryan Lopez, a self-declared Republican, said revenue from the tax could be used to help hospitals and keep companies in Connecticut once the debt is paid down.

Lopez also took advantage of the legislators’ time to grill them on upcoming bills, and voice his opinions on everything from gun control (opposed) to legalizing marijuana (in favor).