AP NEWS

Class lobbies senator to introduce a bill to name a state vegetable

January 12, 2019

Goldenrod, a hardy perennial herb which blooms bright yellow from July through October, became Nebraska’s official state flower by legislative act in 1895.

State lawmakers named the western meadowlark the state bird in 1929, designated the prairie agate the state rock, blue chalcedony the state gemstone and the mammoth the state fossil in 1967, and replaced the American elm with the cottonwood for the state tree in 1972.

The Cornhusker State — an unofficial nickname until the Legislature repealed the state’s original nickname of “Tree Planter’s State” in 1945 — even has a state soil — Holdrege soil, found in the fertile croplands south of the Platte River.

The Legislature could name the state’s newest symbol this year at the urging of a fourth-grade class from Ronald W. Reagan Elementary School in Millard.

Studying state history and government like all fourth-grade classes in Nebraska, Thomas Whisinnand’s class has explored how ideas become bills and how bills become laws in the unicameral form of government.

To bring the lesson to life, they invited Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn to speak in mid-December, taking the opportunity to share with her their idea about naming corn the state vegetable through a handful of persuasive essays.

“She came and explained how a bill becomes a law, and we said, ‘It just so happens we have an idea for a bill,’” Whisinnand said Thursday afternoon.

Linehan called Whisinnand “a great teacher going beyond what he’s got to do.” The passion of the students got her hooked on the idea.

The bill (LB105) she introduced Thursday would create the state vegetable designation to go along with the state beverage (milk), soft drink (Kool-Aid) and fish (channel catfish).

Linehan, who will partner with corn-growing Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson on the proposal, said she hopes the class will write more letters to the Nebraska Corngrowers Association, the Nebraska Cattlemen and other farm groups asking for their support on the bill.

When his class learned of Linehan’s legislation Thursday, “they went nuts,” Whisinnand said. They’ll track its progress through committee and the three rounds of debate by the full Legislature, he said.

“They said we need to have a corn party,” he said. “Maybe we will.”