A state butterfly?
The Minnesota Legislature has been down this road before. A few years back a group of young people successfully initiated the process to designate a state muffin. It was a class project to give the youngsters hands-on experience in the legislative process.
Now Mahtomedi fourth-graders testified before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee this week in order to designate a state butterfly. The session provided cute photo opportunities and was, no doubt, a great learning experience for the students.
Capitol observers predict the bill will pass easily. Although such legal designations strike some citizens as silly and wasteful, it's understandable why the legislators feel driven to go along with such projects. As Birchwood City Council member and attorney Randy LaFoy said, "Who can vote against kids and butterflies?"
The question must be asked, however, "Is this how we want our lawmakers to spend their time in a short session?" It's not like there is a shortage of legitimate efforts they could address.
Our concern is that the photo opportunities and publicity created by these class projects will inspire other educators to approach lawmakers about designating a state dessert or a state spider.
The teachers are to be commended for their efforts to get young people interested in government. It would be better if they could find a project that didn't take up the lawmakers' time during the session.
The YMCA model government program conducts its program when the Legislature is not in session. It provides an exciting hands-on experience with government. Brainerd students have participated in this program for years and have reveled in the experience.
Students could sit in on legislative hearings on more substantial issues. Or legislators could offer Capitol tours or one-day seminars when the Legislature is not in session.
Spare us the introduction of a bill to designate lutefisk as the official state meal.
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