CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — After New Hampshire lawmakers mocked one fourth grade class's effort to name an official state raptor last month, the wily bobcat was faring better Thursday when a state Senate committee backed a plan by another group of school kids to pick an official state wildcat.
In March, an effort by Hampton Falls students to name the red-tailed hawk the official state raptor drew ridicule from members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, with one member likening the hawk's hunting methods to abortion and others saying the bill was a waste of precious time.
The dustup over how the state names its symbols gained national attention and on Thursday led one lawmaker to ask for a committee to study the process.
New Hampshire students learn about state history in fourth grade, and it's common for classes to put their lessons into practice by asking state lawmakers to designate new state symbols. New Hampshire boasts a state flower, bird, sport, several state poems and a plethora of other symbols. But, as the conflicting fates of the bobcat and hawk shows, the process isn't always clear cut.
"It can be a little bit fickle depending on the mood of different legislators on any given day," Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said.
The committee Bradley proposes would not only tackle symbols but look at how the state designates days or months to specific causes, passes legislative resolutions and names state facilities or roadways after people. For example, lawmakers often debate whether they should wait until a person has died to name something in his or her honor.
"That's probably the biggest question that would have to be answered," Bradley said. "It generates a lot of controversy so I think it's good to take a look at it."
Bradley had planned to attach the study committee to the bobcat bill, but was so impressed with the students' presentation he is holding off and plans to attach it to another bill. The students, from the Well School in Peterborough, told lawmakers that the bobcat's independence and resilience are qualities shared by New Hampshire residents and that the animal is symbolic of the state's natural beauty.
Student Owen Nieuwenhuizen explained to lawmakers that bobcats are protective of their territory.
"This, too, is symbolic of the people of New Hampshire in that we pride ourselves on being independent thinkers who are protective of our freedoms and of our ways of life," he said.
The bobcat bill now heads to the Senate floor. Senators have no formal plans to reintroduce the red-tailed hawk bill, but Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn said a comeback is always possible.