Pittsville students get a lesson in civics — and tenacity
Group pushes for law banning the sale of novelty lighters
By Kris Leonhardt
PITTSVILLE — A group of Pittsville students is getting a look inside the Wisconsin legislature while working toward instituting a law banning the sale of novelty lighters.
Second-grade students at Pittsville Elementary lost a classmate in 2008 in a house fire in which the child had been playing with a lighter.
Not long after, the Weekly Reader magazine came out with an article reminding children of the dangers of novelty lighters — cigarette lighters that resemble toys.
While talking with his granddaughter one day, Pittsville Fire Company Chief Jerry Minor learned about the Weekly Reader story and how serious she and other children were taking the matter.
“She said, ‘Grandpa, you need to make a law,’” recalled Minor. “I thought I would make it a civics lesson for them.”
That was 2008. Nine years later the civics lesson continues.
“They wrote letters to then Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, Scott Suder, Sen. (Julie) Lassa, and Gov. (Jim) Doyle,” recalled Minor. “Both Vruwink and Lassa picked it up and started the process with our first bill.”
Since then the group has reintroduced the bill each legislative session. Each time Minor and the Pittsville students, who are now sophomores, travel down to the state capitol to testify before legislative committees, and each time the children are met with dismay.
“All of the bills since 2008 have been pretty much identical, very little change between any of them. As to why (they fail), that’s a good question for our representative,” said Minor. “I’m not sure — besides politics — what the issue might be.
“I had thought this was going to be so simple. It was good, solid legislation, and certainly saving lives and property was our goal. Nine years later I still believe that. What the problems are with it are outside my knowledge.
“We are not going to quit until this gets through. I have letters upon letters supporting this. I don’t want to say that there is no opposition, but there is a lot of support.”
Minor said that the current bill has been designated Assembly Bill 413. It will next be sent to the Consumer Protection Committee, and a public hearing date will later be set.
“Anyone can support, appear, testify, or send a letter in,” explained Minor.
Rep. Scott Krug is now assisting with the bill.
Novelty lighters are cigarette lighters designed to look much like toys and contain butane or white gas. Some of these lighters play music, have lights, or resemble cameras, phones, cartoon characters, and other styles attractive to children.