Bear bill hibernates at Capitol

Is it ever too early for Minnesota school children to learn just how hard it is to get something through the Minnesota Legislature?

The effort to name the black bear the state mammal of Minnesota — described in this space yesterday — may be dead at the Capitol.

Dana Coleman, the first grade teacher whose young charges researched bears and proposed the designation, writes to say legislative support is dwindling:

Thank you for your nice story today! I am the teacher whose first graders have the bill in the MN House and Senate to have the black bear become our state mammal. I hope you have more accurate news than I do. I wish it had bipartisan support. According to Senator Michelle Benson and Representative Peggy Scott (our authors) it has lost momentum in the House and now they aren’t even going to hear it. The kids are so disappointed. If you have any ideas of ways for me to get the word out there to help our cause, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks again for bringing this to the forefront! Dana Coleman

On WCCO Radio with Jason DeRusha today two theories were offered. First, if the Legislature fails to accomplish anything major this session, legislative candidates would point out that the Legislature wasted its time on bears. The other is the possibility that legislators fear hunters will think it’s the start of a conspiracy to protect the bears.

But Ms.Coleman dismissed both theories, noting it’s just a designation and that passing it would take mere minutes.

But this is fairly routine for official designations. The last “official” was the state apple. The bill designating the honeycrisp was filed in May 2005, and not voted on until the final days of the legislative session in 2006.

Prior to the great honeycrisp debate, the previous “official” item bill in the state was the official state picture, “Grace,” taken by Eric Enstrom in Bovey.


It took more than a year before the bill got a vote in both the House and Senate and was eventually sent to Gov. Ventura for his signature.

  • Jim Shapiro

    But think of the children! 🙂

  • Heidi

    What are first graders really learning from this exercise? Isn’t this more appropriate for an older class?

    And is responding to a first grader’s extraneous bill really the best use of our legislator’s time?

  • Bob Collins

    // bill really the best use of our legislator’s time?

    they work four days a week.

  • Julie Blaha

    Is this developmentally appropriate for these students? According to the current Minnesota Social Studies Standards draft it seems to be – there are a number of parts of the first grade Civics category Ms. Coleman covers here.

    One is the standard regarding the idea that “The republic has symbolically important artifacts.” where students are to “Identify symbols, songs, and traditions that identify our nation and/or state and community.” That’s where the state mammal comes in.

    Also, there is the standard under the concept that “Rules and laws have specific purposes” where students are required to “Define the characteristics of good rules and participate in a process to establish rules.” Proposing a bill seems to fit nicely here.

    Another standard regarding the idea that “Civic values, rights, and responsibilities define a republic” states that students need to “Demonstrate a way to participate in the civic life of one’s community, explain why participation is important.” You can’t get more participatory than this.

    And that’s just the Social Studies area – I could on and on about the reading, writing, and science standards she hits on as well.

    Don’t underestimate what a first grader can do – Ms. Coleman’s sure doesn’t.