February 9, 2016

Mammoth fossil bill moves forward — with a mother’s nudge

A third grader’s  idea to honor the Columbian mammoth as the state fossil passed the Senate, only after her mom finally called Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler.

Peeler has opposed naming any more official state items, but budged this time:

“I know the power of mothers and my Mama always said, ‘Don’t mess with mama bear’s cubs.’ So I was reminded of that yesterday.”

Olivia McConnell’s mother Amanda said she did not make any phone calls –until it looked like Peeler was blocking the bill on principle.  Then she called on friends and family to email, tweet and call Peeler.

“I asked and begged and pleaded with him as a mother and as a South Carolinian to appreciate that this is part of South Carolina history and is not just an emblem. And it was never just an emblem to her,” McConnell said.

“We have gone about this the right way,” McConnell said, as she and her husband let Olivia do all the work, with the freedom to give up at any time she wanted.

The eight-year old saw the bill through by making her case to her district House lawmakers. Rep. Robert Ridgeway III, D-Manning, agreed to sponsor it. Sen. Kevin Johnson, D-Manning, helped in the upper chamber.

LINK: The has gotten more attention than the third grader who dreamt up the bill intended.

In the Senate, however, Peeler made his point by tacking on an amendment to ban any future bills like it:

Olivia’s Mom said her daughter would not agree with that: “I can speak for her in saying that she does not want anyone to not have a chance in the future to do the same thing if they feel passionately about something that their state tries to offer and something that we South Carolinians can be proud of.”

The bill’s language now also contains an Old Testament reference slipped in by creationist lawmakers:

 “Section 1-1-712A.   The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as ‘the Columbian Mammoth’, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field.”

It’s up to the House now to accept the language as-is or send it to a compromise committee, ironically doing what Peeler was trying to avoid — devoting additional time to bills with lesser impact.

In the House, the original sponsor, Rep. Ridgeway told South Carolina Radio Network, “I can say this now, I never thought such a small bill would reach such mammoth proportions.”

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