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Ladybug Bill moves from House side to Senate

The North Dakota Senate Political Subdivisions Committee considered HB 1219 on Friday, also known as the “Ladybug Bill,” and were treated to a professional, colorful multi-media presentation the bill from Kenmare second graders Megan Zimmer, Isabel Schwab, Logan Redding and Jaden McNeiley.

3/09/11 (Wed)

UPDATE:  This story was sent to press shortly after noon on 3/8/11. At 1:35 pm on the same day, the North Dakota Senate passed HB 1219 with a 45-0 vote.  The Kenmare elementary students watched the floor action via live video feed and cheered wildly for the successful efforts of their second grade classmates who made this bill happen.  IF Governor Jack Dalrymple signs the bill into law, North Dakota's new state insect will be the convergent lady beetle, Hippodamia convergens, commonly known as the ladybug.

 
Real lady bugs flown in for Senate hearing
 
By Caroline Downs
 
The North Dakota Senate Political Subdivisions Committee considered HB 1219 on Friday, also known as the “Ladybug Bill,” and were treated to a professional, colorful multi-media presentation the bill from Kenmare second graders Megan Zimmer, Isabel Schwab, Logan Redding and Jaden McNeiley.
 
The young lobbyists traveled to Bismarck for the hearing, armed with new portfolios of information for the five committee members and additional facts, anecdotes and examples to support their premise for designating the convergent lady beetle as the North Dakota state insect.
 
Despite the single digit temperatures of the day, the students were accompanied by dozens of living, breathing convergent lady beetles. “We had these flown in by Federal Express the day before from North Carolina so the senators could see the real lady beetles,” explained Kenmare elementary enrichment instructor Tami McNeiley, who has been advising the students on the state insect project since last year.
 
The four second graders were confident during their second trip to the legislature and focused on their case, but their celebrity status preceded them. People stopped them in the hallways of the capitol building to say, “Go, ladybugs!” One of the Senate Political Subdivisions committee members took photos of the kids to use in a book he is writing about his experiences in public service. During the students’ visit to the Senate floor session, they were met at the door by senators asking the students to join them at their desks. Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley requested a photo with the ladybug group, which led to an extended photo session with several senators.
 
The Kenmare kids took the attention and television cameras in stride, although Jaden admitted he was thrilled to meet Governor Jack Dalrymple and shake his hand at one point during the day’s activities.
 
The students were also impressed by the reaction from three high school classes who were visiting the session that day and sat in on the Senate Political Subdivisions Committee meeting. At first, the Kenmare group heard the upperclassmen complain about having to listen to testimony about ladybugs. “They were thinking like this was going to be boring,” said Jaden, “and then after the hearing, four of them wanted my autograph!”
 
The kids used the past few weeks, after the bill passed the House 88-6 on February 3rd, to revise and focus their purpose. They spoke for a solid hour about the benefits of naming the convergent lady beetle as the state insect and included new information not heard by the corresponding House committee.
 
“We need to educate the public about this,” said Isabel, “so I talked about state identity. We have to give people a sense of pride and patriotism for the state.”
 
Logan continued the education theme. “We wanted them to know that lady beetles aren’t structure-demolishing pests like termites and carpenter ants, and how important they are to our environment,” she said.
 
Jaden had specific anecdotes to support the case, including the example set by the Domino’s Pizza corporation in using lady beetles to control aphids on basil plants grown for seasoning on the company’s pizzas.
 
He struck a chord, though, with a story straight from the Bismarck Tribune about sticky honeydew problems on cars and sidewalks secreted by an abundance of aphids plaguing the city in the summer months. “In 2002 and 2004, below average spring temperatures hurt the ladybug populations in Bismarck,” Jaden said. “I would have advised [the city] to buy some ladybugs to improve the situation.”
 
The students paid careful attention to the senator’s reactions “Some of them nodded while we were talking and some asked questions,” Isabel said, adding that the senators laughed after Megan finished her segment of the presentation with the question, “How many of you are thinking of ladybugs right now and smiling?”
 
Isabel herself shared a compelling story of discovering a convergent lady beetle on the school playground during the stretch of 40-degree days in February. She and her classmates agreed that particular ladybug was a sign of good luck for the bill.
 
Jaden made the final statements for the group’s testimony, including his conclusion, “It’s essential that [the lady beetles] thrive,” which he accented with a strong thump of his fist on the podium. “Later, one of the senators asked me if I wanted to take over Representative Froseth’s job,” he recalled. With a broad smile, he said he might some day.
 
The committee immediately discussed the bill in the students’ presence and then called the vote for a do-pass or do not-pass recommendation. With five votes supporting the do-pass motion, the committee chair still had to follow protocol and ask for any neutral or do not-pass votes. “Then he said, ‘You’re going to look like a fool if you do,’” Mrs. McNeiley said, laughing.
 
She and her students were thrilled with the unanimous response of the committee. The meeting ended with a round of handshakes and a spontaneous group hug with Representative Glen Froseth who sponsored the bill and first worked with the students a year ago to help them draft the legislation after they completed an extensive unit of study on ladybugs. “I’ve never been so proud of my students,” said Mrs. McNeiley. “They’ve had such a positive attitude toward North Dakota through the whole experience.”
 
“The kids were excellent and really overwhelmed the committee with their testimony and the knowledge they had of the issue,” Froseth said. “Their presentation was probably better than the first one on the House side.”
 
With the testimony completed, the bill was scheduled for a vote in the state senate on Tuesday afternoon, with results unavailable at press time. “All the committee members were competing to see who would talk about the bill on the floor of the Senate,” said Mrs. McNeiley, “and committee member Judy Lee of West Fargo wanted to know where she could get a copy of our video to show the other senators.”
 
The students planned to watch the Senate discuss their bill via the live video feed available online. The group hoped to be cheering after the vote is taken, but they were well aware their bill could fail.
 
Regardless of the outcome, Mrs. McNeiley emphasized her students’ successful efforts. “The senators found out this wasn’t a joke and something just about cute kids,” she said. “The kids won them over with their heart and their information.”