Kenmare kids' Ladybug Bill passes House, moves on to Senate
Posted 2/08/11 (Tue)
Go, lady beetle . . . Students at Kenmare Elementary School
can track the progress of a bill introduced to designate the
convergent lady beetle as the official state insect of North Dakota,
thanks to a display of news items created by school librarian
Jean Barnhart. The bill passed the state House of Representatives
last week. Above (l-r), second graders Isabel Schwab, Megan Zimmer,
Jaden McNeiley and Logan Redding, who worked with Rep. Glen Froseth to write the bill and get it introduced, smile at all the support they're getting
as they prepare testimony for a Senate committee hearing in early March.
By Caroline Downs
House Bill 1219, nicknamed the Ladybug Bill, cleared a second hurdle on its way to the Governor’s desk last Thursday at approximately 1:20 pm.
That was the time of the vote taken in the North Dakota House of Representatives, with 88 ballots cast in favor of the bill to designate the convergent lady beetle as the official state insect, and 6 ballots cast against the bill.
Representative Glen Froseth of Kenmare assisted Kenmare second graders Logan Redding, Jaden McNeiley, Isabel Schwab and Megan Zimmer in drafting the bill nearly a year ago, but Representative Thomas Beadle of Fargo summarized the bill on the House Floor. Rep. Beadle is a member of the House Political Subdivisions Committee that heard the students testify on behalf of HB1219 on January 20th.
As Speaker of the House David Drovdal recognized Rep. Beadle’s desire to speak on behalf of the lady beetle bill, fellow Representatives chuckled at the play on words. Rep. Beadle laughed along with them, commenting on how long it took for them to catch on to the connection between his name and the bill’s topic.
He described the bill and said the committee had been convinced by “...the most adorable little lobbyists we’ve seen so far this session.” The Political Subdivisions Committee gave the bill a “do pass” recommendation with a unanimous vote.
He continued by saying the lady beetle plays a useful role in the state by feeding on aphids that damage North Dakota crops, and he pointed out that while seven other states had also chosen the ladybug, the Kenmare students emphasized a species native to the state. The other states have named introduced, non-native species.
“We would show once again that North Dakota does things right,” Beadle said, “by enacting the proper lady bug as the state insect.”
Other Representatives agreed in an overwhelming majority.
Action on the House Floor is streamed live online each day, so Kenmare students in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades watched with enrichment instructor Tami McNeiley as the vote was taken. However, the second grade students were taking a math test and unaware of the outcome until Jaden McNeiley left his classroom for a drink of water.
“While I was in the hall, [third grade teacher] Mrs. Feldman saw me and asked if we’d heard the vote had passed,” Jaden said. He hurried back to his classmates to spread the good news.
“It made me excited,” Isabel said. “You can tell because I danced all around the room!”
Logan said she was excited, too. “I want to meet the Governor,” she added.
“It made me feel really happy,” said Megan. “The lady beetle is one step closer to being the state insect.”
“We’re one step closer to the goal,” Jaden said. “[The news] was awesome!”
HB1219 was sent to the Senate on February 4th for consideration by that chamber. The students will return to Bismarck when the bill is scheduled for a committee hearing, most likely in early March.
On Monday, however, the group was planning their strategy.
They have a concern about being called “cute” so many times. “This is not about how cute they are,” said Mrs. McNeiley. “This is about what’s right for North Dakota.”
The four students have a second motto for themselves now. “We’re going to be serious in the Senate,” they chanted and pounded their fists on the classroom table in agreement. They also recited the “Three P’s” they adopted: Polite, Profession, and haPPy.
Then they returned to work on a set of new portfolios of information they will present to the Senate committee that hears the bill. These folders, decorated carefully with lady beetle designs, will contain the facts and statistics about convergent lady beetles the House Political Subdivisions Committee received.
However, the group hopes to expand their range of support with further documentation by insect experts, including entomologists in South Dakota who have documented the benefits of lady beetles. They have contacted the Domino’s Pizza corporation, which uses convergent lady beetles as a natural pesticide for the crops of basil destined to season Domino’s pizzas, about supporting the North Dakota bill.
They also let their Bismarck supporter Karli “Bug” Krantz, who got excused from her elementary classroom on January 20th to testify on behalf of the bill, know about the bill’s progress and invited her to join them for the Senate committee meeting.
The group has been surprised by greetings and well wishes coming from other kids and adults around the state. One woman in Upham spray-painted ladybugs in the snow outside the school after hearing the bill passed the House. A Minot woman, not related to any of the Kenmare “Ladybug” kids, published a letter of support in the Minot Daily News. A kindergarten class in Jamestown, with a ladybug theme in their room, has been tracking and posting the news about the bill.
The students have enjoyed their moments of celebrity but they are quick to share credit with the adults who have assisted them, including the entomologists who have taken time to write letters on behalf of the convergent lady beetle and, especially, Representative Glen Froseth for teaching the students how to write a bill correctly and then introducing it for them.
“Glen Froseth has been a lot of help,” Jaden said. “If Glen wasn’t here, [the project] would have been like a house without wood.”
The students shared portions of their House committee presentation with the Kenmare School Board on Tuesday and are already scheduled to give another presentation at Kenmare Community Hospital. They intend to have their Senate presentation ready within a couple of weeks.
“I’m happy for the kids,” said Mrs. McNeiley as she and her students discuss the impact their bill is having. “We can only do what we know. We’ve gone this far, so we’ve got to push it all the way.”
“I can’t wait to do it all over again,” Megan said about the upcoming Senate committee hearing. “It will be so much fun!”