Oklahoma fifth-grader's 'wild idea' ends up as state law
Ephraim Bowling is the kind of kid who, in his mom's words, has a lot of wild ideas.
The 10-year-old likes to do things such as build parachutes and hang gliders, Ursula Bowling said, so when he announced he wanted to change state law, the family thought it was another one of those wild ideas.
“I'm kind of surprised that it turned out,” Ursula said, laughing over the phone between homeschool lessons.
It's hard for an average Oklahoman to get something written into law, much less a fifth-grader. But Ephraim was persistent and on Nov. 1 when his bill goes into effect, Oklahoma will have its very own official state raptor: the red-tailed hawk.
“I wanted to do something in 4-H, and I was also really interested in the Legislature,” Ephraim said last week. “Making a state symbol seemed like a good thing to do.”
Enter the state raptor
Oklahoma already has a state flower and a state rock — the mistletoe and rose rock, respectively. There's also a folk song, percussive musical instrument and cartoon character.
What the state didn't have was a designated, official predatory bird, or raptor. Enter Ephraim Bowling.
“I wanted to do something at the Legislature, so I decided to try and lobby for one,” he said.
Ephraim reached out to his state representative, Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, who helped guide him through the process of drafting, presenting and eventually lobbying for a proposed law.
“It blows my mind,” Ursula said. “If every politician listened to their constituents that much, it would be amazing. She could have blown him off, and instead she invited him to come testify in committees and kept him apprised of everything. I'm very appreciative of her.”
He did everything but drive
His parents were there for support, but the most they did was drive him to the Capitol.
“Our philosophy has sort of been, don't get in the way,” Ursula said. “Ephraim himself wrote letters, went and spoke with almost every senator and House representative, and then he went up there like four times to go door to door and talk about the bill.”
He also testified in two committees in the House and in the Senate. State Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, co-authored the bill. Gov. Mary Fallin signed it into law.
The family got positive feedback about his abilities, and Ursula said she hopes he will continue to speak out on issues at the state Capitol.
“I really do hope that as he grows, that he will use what he's learned from this to advocate — maybe not on behalf of red-tail hawks, but on behalf of the needs of Oklahomans because I think that is really important,” she said.
“It's fun, so I'd like to do it again,” he said.