American Council of Young Political Leaders New Zealand Delegation | NZ Parliament
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American Council of Young Political Leaders New Zealand Delegation | NZ Parliament

December 10, 2019

We were very fortunate to travel to Washington DC and then through to Colorado, and there we spent time in Denver and Colorado Springs. My colleagues and I learnt a lot about the United States, about policy-making structures, the political landscape of the US. The exchange gave us a really good opportunity to understand the whole political structure within the United States, from the federal level down to the state level. Visiting the Senate, visiting the capital, visiting some of the important places where policy gets made in America. In DC, we heard from Kirsten Soltis Anderson, who is a political pollster, and she gave us a really good analysis of the political landscape. And it was really good to learn more from both sides of the Congress around the key challenges that they’re facing. We were really fortunate to meet with Representative Rick Larsen, who is a US congressman who is the US Friends of New Zealand co-chair, and just being able to understand and talk to someone who is at the front line and the importance of the trading relationship. And we went also to Arlington Cemetery, and we were fortunate enough to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I’ve got a military background myself, and the emotion that’s involved with understanding the sacrifices that were made to build the country, walking through Arlington Cemetery was quite impressive. We had a really interesting meeting with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, looking at how their grassroots campaign rolls out fundraising and some of the other challenges that they face. And it was really interesting to see how different their ground game was between ours here in New Zealand. I think it’s really important to just reflect on the importance of the New Zealand – American relationship. Our relationship goes back many years. We depend on America for trade. We’ve got a really important trade relationship. One of the highlights for me was our meeting with Colorado’s senator, the Hon Faith Winter, in combating sexual violence, and also the work that she’s done in domestic violence prevention. State Senator Faith Winter is a very passionate individual, and you can see, from my perspective, that that’s where the advocacy for the one-on-one with the constituencies work. We also had the opportunity to meet with the attorney-general in the state of Colorado and to talk to him about that relationship between the states and the federal system when it comes to lawmaking powers. And, of course, the example there is around marijuana law reform, which is very advanced. Colorado was one of the first states to legalise marijuana. From talking to a range of people there, they all seem to have had concerns about the speed and what it actually had done. And I think that’s certainly something we can learn about as we approach the issue here in New Zealand. The highlight of the trip for me was the meeting with the two indigenous sisters Debbie and Carrie Howell. They are Native American Indians. I found that the opportunity to sit with them and to hear a bit about their culture, what they are currently working on, what they have worked on throughout their lives. There were a lot of similarities with the Māori experience here in New Zealand. We had a great team of MPs that were on the delegation, and it’s actually quite rare for all of us to come together in that way and spend a good period of time analysing the issues. It was great to get to know colleagues from across Parliament in New Zealand. We talked about the fact that we are all part of the New Zealand Parliament to serve New Zealanders and also talked about some of the common ground that we have, areas that we can work on and build consensus. I think that’s very important to strengthen our Parliament going forward.

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