Under the Dome

Rocky Mount students win NC House support for official state cat

A group of Rocky Mount elementary school students were by far the youngest lobbyists at the legislature Monday, but they got results in their bid to name the official state cat.

Fourth-graders from Benvenue Elementary School won support from the state Houseto designate the bobcat as North Carolina’s state cat.

“We got the idea of a bobcat because our school mascot is a bobcat, and we noticed that we didn’t have a state cat,” said Benvenue student My’Kel Scott. “We just decided to make up this bill, and it’s going great so far.”

Rep. Bobbie Richardson, a Louisburg Democrat who represents Rocky Mount, took up the cause and sponsored the bill. “We all wrote a letter and we put facts on why it should be the state cat,” Benvenue student Shannon Rogers said.

Rogers said she was surprised that the legislators didn’t argue about the bill. The unanimous vote in the House Wildlife Committee came after just a minute or two of discussion, which also seemed to surprise its sponsor. Two hours later, it passed the full House in a 114-2 vote.

“Can I have this support every time I present a bill?” Richardson joked.

Richardson let the students argue for the bill. Rogers told the committee that the bobcat is “the only wildcat in North Carolina.”

And Scott also came prepared. “We figured out some interesting facts about the bobcat, like how it kills pests that we don’t want in our houses like snakes, rats and other animals,” he said.

The students’ bill heads next to the Senate. If it becomes law, the bobcat would get a boost after it lost its job as the mascot for Charlotte’s professional basketball team. The team recently changed its name to the Charlotte Hornets.

“Do you think Hugo the Hornet will have any concerns about this bill?” joked Rep. David Lewis, a Dunn Republican.

Two other animals are seeking official status this legislative session. Senate bills that would name the osprey as the state raptor and the Linville Caverns spider as the state spider haven’t yet received a committee hearing.