Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The Western Painted Turtle today became Colorado's official state reptile, thanks to a group of determinedSkyline Vista Elementary School students, the state legislature and Gov. Bill Ritter.
Gov. Ritter signed House Bill 08-1017 into law today, which was sponsored by Rep. Cherilyn Peniston and Sen. Jennifer Veiga and inspired by students in teacher Jay Biachi's class.
A handful of Biachi's students realized last year that Colorado lacked an official state reptile. They wrote to Rep. Peniston and asked her to sponsor legislation supporting the Western Painted Turtle.
Gov. Ritter praised the students today during an all-school assembly for providing a real-life lesson in how a bill becomes a law. The bill passed the House 56-9 and won unanimous backing in the Senate.           
"Congratulations to all of you for taking an idea, bringing it to lawmakers at the Capitol, and turning that idea into a law," Gov. Ritter said. "You should all be very proud of yourselves for getting involved in our democratic process."
Gov. Ritter also quizzed the students on several other state symbols, including the state fish (greenback cutthroat trout), state flower (columbine) and state bird (lark bunting).
The five students who spearheaded the legislation read portions of their legislative testimony at today's assembly. The students are Horacio Duerte Bernal, Joel Nunez, Sabrina Herrera, Ronald Yanker, Amy Loi and Jessica Hernandez.
"There is no state reptile, so why shouldn't we have one that is slow, harmless and cute?" Amy Loi said. "Every kid dreams of having a cute little turtle as a pet. We should have a kid-friendly reptile."