It’s time to let Derry Village School fourth- and fifth-graders have the official last word.
Those students are understandably bursting with pride this week after the state Senate passed House Bill 535 on a voice vote and approved making the white potato the official state vegetable.
The bill had its beginnings with this year’s fifth-graders, who were inspired to lobby for the potato after a trip to the Statehouse last year. This year’s fourth-grade class joined the cause and a group of local House members guided the bill through both chambers.
Now it awaits Gov. Maggie Hassan’s signature, an event the schoolchildren hope to witness firsthand.
It’s a laudable effort, particularly given Derry’s claim to being the site of the first white potato grown in the New World.
The children have followed the bill through the legislative process, marking each step on a paper on their classroom door. There’s little doubt they well understand how an idea becomes law in the Granite State.
They followed the footsteps of students at Broken Ground School in Concord, who in 1977 worked to get the ladybug declared New Hampshire’s official state insect.
Then there was the two-year effort by high-school students in the mid-1980s to have the spotted newt named the official state amphibian.
Seventh-graders in Bedford successfully lobbied to have the Chinook become the state’s official dog.
Harrisville students were responsible for the pumpkin being tabbed the state’s official fruit in 2006.
In 2010, some Jaffrey elementary students inspired a local lawmaker to push for apple cider as the state’s official drink. They, too, were successful, but not before a heated battle with dairy supporters who preferred milk.
The list continues, although not all through the efforts of schoolchildren. Plenty of adults, too, have pushed for their favorite official state symbol.
There was quite a legislative stir in the 1950s when lawmakers deemed it necessary to name the state bird. The purple finch won out over the lowly New Hampshire hen.
Way back in 1919, legislators debated the merits of the purple lilac, the apple blossom, goldenrod, buttercups and more when choosing the state flower. The lilac won out, but that’s not to be confused with the pink lady’s slipper, the state’s official wildflower.
Then there’s the state tree (white birch), state animal (white tail deer), state saltwater game fish (striped bass), state freshwater fish (brook trout), state butterfly (Karner Blue), state sport (skiing), state mineral (beryl) and state gem (smoky quartz).
And who could forget the state tartan? The green, white, black, purple, red and white plaid became official in 1995. Each of the five colors was said to represent something of significance to New Hampshire.
It was a story of a different color for Freedom Elementary School students. They tried to get orange, red and yellow designated as the state’s official colors. That proposal, much like an effort to have purple made the state’s top color choice two years ago, was tabled in March.
But, there’s hope for Freedom students, given lawmakers’ propensity for making things official.
There’s no question hands-on learning works. But it’s officially time to stop making yet another state designation an annual event.
Perhaps if lawmakers lived in the land of milk (or cider) and honey, and were twiddling their thumbs in Concord, it wouldn’t matter. But, the truth is, they have a lot of work to do and they make paltry progress on bills that really matter.
So, unless students decide to have bills introduced regarding seatbelt or helmet laws, education funding or expanded gaming, it’s time to learn from the history books or, better yet, do some classroom role playing and see how tough it really is to get meaningful legislation through the Statehouse.