By Max Sullivan
Posted Dec 6, 2018 at 1:25 PM
HAMPTON -- Lawmakers will push again for the red-tailed hawk to become the state raptor in hopes of vindicating a fourth-grade class that brought forth the same bill three years ago.
The state House of Representatives drew national attention when it rejected the first red-tailed hawk bill put forth in 2015. The bill, filed by state Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, was part of a class project by a group of fourth-graders at Lincoln Akerman School in Hampton Falls. Lawmakers were criticized for being insensitive to the young students in their remarks, with one representative saying the bird’s violent nature might make it a “much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.”
Local lawmakers told Hampton selectmen Monday of their plan to file the bill again. State Rep. Jason Janvrin, R-Seabrook, told selectmen he and other Hampton-area representatives acknowledge the House was “not very nice” to the students when the bill was voted down.
“We’ve all decided that we’d like to put the bill forward on behalf of those students,” Janvrin said. “It’s really important that these youth understand that, hey, sometimes you lose, but sometimes you can win as well.”
Video of the session in which the bill was killed was picked up by national news outlets, as well as personalities like HBO’s John Oliver. Rep. Warren Groen, R-Rochester, at the time came under fire for making the Planned Parenthood remark, while Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, was criticized for saying naming the hawk the state raptor would lead to a “state hot dog.” The Washington Post, People Magazine and the Onion also picked up on the story.
LAS fourth-graders sat in the House chamber in-person as the lawmakers spoke on the bill and shot it down by a vote of 160-133.
Andrew Kriner, who was one of the fourth-graders who brought the bill to Concord, said recently he appreciates the intent of local lawmakers to pick up their cause. The young students were elated when the bill made it out of committee that year, but Andrew said watching the bill fail was frustrating. Now in eighth grade, he said he understands more clearly what happened than he did as a fourth-grader.
“I didn’t really understand it at the time, but I just remember feeling a little disappointed,” Andrew said.
While the raptor bill was killed, the same House voted to send another bill making the bobcat the state wildcat to the Senate, which Andrew said compounded the frustration. The bobcat bill was passed into law that year.
“I remember being confused on why that passed and ours didn’t,” he said. “It was just a little surprising to me.”
Supporters of the students in 2015 said having classes put forth such bills was a way to introduce them to the legislative process at an early age. Andrew said crafting the bill and following it to Concord played a part in developing his interest in potentially becoming a lawmaker himself some day.
“A lot of that was to show us the process ... how we might able to do that,” he said. “We spent a lot of time and worked really hard on that, so if they brought it back, I’d be really excited about that.”