Lobbying effort backs little bluestem

Delaware Ridge students launch plan to designate official state grass

State Sen. Mark Gilstrap, D-Kansas City, listens as Delaware Ridge Elementary second-grader Katie Kilmartin presents reasons why little bluestem should be designated as the official state grass of Kansas. Gilstrap visited the school May 16. Enlarge photo

June 5, 2008

Delaware Ridge Elementary School students recently had the opportunity to lobby a state senator.

Sen. Mark Gilstrap, D-Kansas City, visited the school May 16 to talk with second-graders about naming little bluestem the official state grass of Kansas.

The students had written to Gilstrap and Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee, about why Kansas should have a state grass. One student was selected from each class to present a persuasive composition to the senator.

Gilstrap listened to the children, asked questions about little bluestem, and explained to them the legislative process of getting it named the state grass, which would require a resolution to be written and passed by both chambers of the Legislature.

Gilstrap also answered questions from the students.

"Second-graders ask the roughest questions," Gilstrap said this week, including "a lot about nothing to do with the Kansas Legislature," such as his favorite color, and "the most important thing" about being a legislator.

"I tell them I like working with people to try to get things done," Gilstrap said.

The students also showed Gilstrap their newly established native gardens on the school grounds, composed of native Kansas plants, including little bluestem.

"Quite frankly, I knew nothing about the grass," Gilstrap said later. "They were intensive lobbyists."

Gilstrap keeps a letter from one of the students, Ted Gardea, in a Senate folder "as a reminder closer to January," he said, when the next legislative session begins, to create and introduce a resolution that would make little bluestem the official state grass of Kansas.

Assuming Gilstrap is re-elected in November - he said he would seek another term - the resolution naming little bluestem the state grass shouldn't be hard to get passed, he said, because, as the legislator learned from the second-graders, the grass is found in each of the state's 105 counties.

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