Government & Politics

Bill naming state fossils passes easily in Kansas House

It’s a bill 80 million years in the making.

And if the Senate concurs with the House, Kansas will have not one, but two official state fossils.

On Thursday, the House passed House Bill 2595, to establish the avian reptile pteranodon and the aquatic reptile tylosaurus as official state fossils.

The bill flew through the House – or swam through if you prefer – on a final vote of 96-27.

The pteranodon was a giant flying reptile – with a pointed beak and a wingspan of up to about 25 feet – that soared over Kansas in the late Cretaceous period when the state was covered by an inland sea.

While pteranodon ruled the skies, tylosaurus ruled the sea. Running about 45 feet in length, tylosaurus was a marine predator that looked like a cross between a fish and an alligator.

Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, waxed eloquent about the long-extinct animals during debate on the bill Wednesday. He said celebrating them as state fossils would enhance Kansas’ reputation as a treasure house of prehistoric skeletons and spur kids’ interest in paleontological science.

“All of us have seen it (pteranodon) depicted in the classic movies like ‘King Kong’ and ‘Fantasia’ and most recently in ‘Jurassic Park,’ ” he said.

But for every crowd there’s a critic.

Cue Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, who questioned why the Legislature would burn time and effort on a state law declaring official fossils when it could pass a simple resolution and move on.

Schwab was the only lawmaker to file an explanation of vote, read by the clerk of the House on Thursday.

It said, in its entirety: “Mr. Speaker, really? I mean, really? I’m going to have to vote no on HB 2595.”

Later, he expanded on his explanation: “I don’t see any sixth-graders saying, ‘I’m bored, I’m going to read the statute book,’ and then saying, ‘Oh, that’s the state fossil. I want to be a paleontologist.’ That doesn’t happen.”