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Lady beetle becomes state insect with signature from Governor

If the legislators at work during a Senate floor session on March 8th would have paused and opened a window in the Capitol building that afternoon, they could possibly have heard the echoes of a cheer sent up from the Kenmare Elementary students after HB 1219 was passed by those senators.

3/16/11 (Wed)

The thrill of history in the making . . . Isabel Schwab, center,
celebrates the news that the North Dakota Senate passed HB 1219
with a 45-0 vote, sending a bill to designate the convergent
lady beetle as the state's official insect to Governor Dalrymple's
desk to be signed. Isabel worked on the project with instructor
Tami McNeiley (right) and classmates Logan Redding,
Jaden McNeiley and Megan Zimmer (kneeling by Jaden).


By Caroline Downs
If the legislators at work during a Senate floor session on March 8th would have paused and opened a window in the Capitol building that afternoon, they could possibly have heard the echoes of a cheer sent up from the Kenmare Elementary students after HB 1219 was passed by those senators.
That particular bill designated the convergent lady beetle as the state’s official insect.
For second graders Isabel Schwab, Jaden McNeiley, Logan Redding and Megan Zimmer, the vote was the final step in seeing their goal realized. The four started promoting the ladybug as the state insect after doing a research unit on lady beetles in first grade with enrichment instructor Tami McNeiley. During the course of their studies, the students discovered North Dakota did not have a state insect, so they worked with Representative Glen Froseth to draft a bill designating the convergent lady beetle as such.
Froseth introduced the bill during the current legislative session and the foursome made two trips to Bismarck to testify before House and Senate committees, generating quite a bit of publicity for the bill because of their youth, their exhaustive research, and their presentation strategy which included facts, songs, videos and supporting materials from renowned entomologists.
The full House passed the bill in February, but the Senate could have killed the bill and the students’ hopes for “ladybug luck” in North Dakota. On March 8th, Kenmare kids in grades kindergarten through three gathered around an ActivBoard in the school’s multipurpose room about 1 pm, when the Senate floor session was slated to begin. Action on the Senate floor was streamed by a live video feed that allowed students to watch and hear the senators in real time.
Once the Senate floor session started, Mrs. McNeiley explained several procedures to the young audience.
She showed them where the four Kenmare kids sat when they attended a floor session following their testimony on March 4th, and she pointed out Senator Connie Triplett of Grand Forks, whose nephews Carson and Devin Triplett attend school in Kenmare.
While the other students marveled at the formal speeches, the gavel and the electronic board that recorded “yay” votes in green and “nay” votes in red, the four Ladybug lobbyists sat quietly. They stared at the screen, then at each other, and occasionally crossed some fingers to wish themselves luck.
The Senate worked through the appointments, procedural changes and proposed amendments on its agenda for the day and finally took up the first bill at 1:25 pm.
Ten minutes later, the “Ladybug Bill” was introduced to the full Senate by Senator Curtis Olafson of Edinburg, who said he was fulfilling his responsibility as carrier of the bill to inform his fellow Senators about the committee hearing. “Wow, it was truly amazing,” he said. “You should have been there!”
He went on to describe the presentation prepared by Jaden, Isabel, Logan and Megan. “I wish I could be that well-prepared for a committee hearing, that well-researched, and that knowledgeable about my facts,” he said. He then proceeded to list a handful of his favorite ladybug facts and some of the folklore about ladybugs reported by the Kenmare kids.
“They compiled a tremendous amount of information and we asked them questions,” he continued. “At first, we gave them a couple softballs, but then we asked them more challenging questions.”
He praised the students for their work and reported the committee’s 5-0 vote to give HB 1219 a do-pass recommendation.
Senator John Andrist of Crosby offered his support next and quoted Jaden directly, “Ladies and gentlemen, we must have this bill!”
The Kenmare students spontaneously burst into applause as the video showed a unanimous 45-0 vote, with two senators absent that day.
The cheers reverberated around the walls as teachers turned down the volume for the Senate’s floor session. “Do you know what this means?” Mrs. McNeiley asked the group. “This means the ladybug has become the state insect.”
She called Isabel, Megan, Logan and Jaden forward while the other students continued cheering. “I want everybody to know how proud I am of this group,” she said.
Then she paused and looked at the young audience, who also held their cheers. “Now, there’s one more step that has to be done,” she said. “Somebody has to sign the bill. Do you know who has to sign it?”
A chorus of “the Governor!” sounded from among the second and third graders, with other kids adding, “He better!”
Another rousing ladybug cheer sent most of the students back to their classrooms, but Logan, Megan, Jaden and Isabel took time to call their parents and share their reactions.
“This was awesome!” said Megan. “Every senator voted yes.”
“And nobody changed their votes,” said Logan, who had watched the Senate’s board carefully.
“Now, we want to try to get [this information] into every newspaper in North Dakota,” added Jaden.
The group agreed with Mrs. McNeiley that they still had work to do to educate the public about ladybugs and their benefits to North Dakota residents. “Do you realize this is now a state symbol?” Mrs. McNeiley asked them. “And you are the youngest group of people ever to propose a bill in North Dakota history? This has been incredible, from the beginning to the end!”
After spending more than a year on ladybug studies, the four started a new unit to research bats. “But we’re never going to stop thinking about ladybugs,” said Megan.
In fact, the four students were scheduled to make one more trip to Bismarck yesterday for a special bill-signing ceremony with Governor Jack Dalrymple. They were looking forward to their audience with the Governor, after meeting the First Lady during their February visit to the Capitol.
The full impact of the Senate’s action was still sinking in even as further plans were in the making. After all the cheers and congratulations, Jaden was still shaking his head. “Actually, I was expecting it to pass,” he said, “but I can’t believe it!”