Wisconsin Legislators Approve State Microbe
There it was, amid the long list of crucial bills that state legislators in Wisconsin were racing to vote on before their session ends next week: A bill to select the state’s official microbe. Yes, microbe. Peculiar, perhaps, until one considers what appeared to be the extremely short list of contenders (one) for this state honor — none other than Lactococcus lactis, the bacterium used to make cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack cheese, and an unsung hero in this, the nation’s No. 1 cheese-producing state.
“The first time I heard the idea, I thought, I’ve got more important things to do than spending my time honoring a microbe,” said Gary Hebl, a Democratic state representative who proposed the bill which, he says, would make Wisconsin the first state in the nation to grant such a designation. “But this microbe is really a very hard worker.”
Sure, there are doubters. Those who question why lawmakers, in dire fiscal times, might spend even a moment talking about such silliness. And others who say there are simply too many symbols for too many things in too many places already. Along with the predictable state animals and colors, consider Texas’s vehicle (the chuck wagon), Pennsylvania’s official toy (the Slinky), New Mexico’s state question (“Red or green?,” an allusion to chile peppers) and Maryland’s oddly ordinary state exercise (walking).
The proposal in Wisconsin had faced only one detractor in committee (“the opponent was clearly lactose intolerant,” Mr. Hebl said), and there was no sign of a last-minute campaign from other bacteria, the ones used, say, as starter cultures for Swiss or mozzarella. And by evening, the Assembly had approved the measure, 56 to 41.
Hey, anything that distracts them from raising taxes.
Does anybody have a favorite microbe that they’d like their state to adopt? I’d vote for whatever yeast turns plain old grain into beautiful, golden beer.