Resolutions Honor Love, Potatoes and Pets: Legislative Watch

Faced with a cascade of unprecedented and overwhelming challenges, legislators still found time to acknowledge the simple pleasures of life, including onions, country music and a hound dog named Jo Jo.

Pretzel
A resolution introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature has called for the designation of "Pretzel Day" to honor the state's favorite snack food. (Shutterstock)
Resolutions offer a blank slate for legislators to express their opinion or will regarding anything, whether it be the direction of policy, bad behavior by colleagues or foreign leaders, the passing of prominent citizens, the success of local sports teams or notable service to their communities.

When 2020 began, legislators could not have imagined how far it would push them beyond the usual, and significant, challenges of governing. As the year unfolded, they found themselves grappling with a historic public health disaster, economic collapse, a racial and justice protest movement spreading from their towns to countries across the globe, and an election season fraught with previously unimagined risk and controversy.

As state lawmakers struggled to legislate while norms, safeguards, civil behavior and respect for public servants faltered, resolutions offered a channel for simple expressions of humanity and appreciation. For a season focused on fellow feeling, here are some examples.

Pennsylvania HR805 highlighted the state’s role as the birthplace of the pretzel industry, the home of the world’s largest pretzel factory and the site of the first automatic pretzel twisting machines. It called for the designation of a “Pretzel Day” in the state.

HR5084, a South Carolina bill, honors the life of Jo Jo, a bloodhound that served in the Union County Sherriff’s office for eight years. Jo Jo was the first dog in the office’s K-9 unit, and was remembered for leading the sergeant who worked with her through “hundreds of miles of pursuits through forest, farmland and cities alike,” accumulating over 300 captures over her career in law enforcement.

Kentucky HR80 honored Valentine’s Day and urged all Kentuckians in romantic relationships to “duly celebrate” the day, wishing them happiness as they “celebrate their love.” It includes a recounting of the history of the holiday, and its centuries-old presence in popular culture and poetry, including a scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

A New York bill, K925 celebrates both the nutritional value of onions, their place in virtually every world cuisine and their value in treating coughs, wounds, hypertension and other ailments. It asks that the state recognize and support its onion farmers by proclaiming Onion Appreciation Month.

AJR142 in New Jersey calls for May in each year to be designated as “Birding Month in New Jersey.” It offers a catalogue of birding sites in the state, where hawk and eagle migrations, seabirds, and songbirds, including nearly half of all the species in the continental U.S. and Canada, can be seen. May is the pinnacle month for spring migration, making it an ideal candidate for the designation. 

Virginia HB1408 proposed to add cornhole, also known by names including “corn toss,” “bean toss” and “soft horseshoes,” to the state’s list of official emblems and designations, making it Virginia’s official tailgate game. Other items already on the list, part of the state code, include the state beverage (milk), the state fossil (Chesapecten jeffersonius), the state television series (“Song of the Mountains”) and the state salamander, Pseudotriton ruber.

California ACR192 proposes an International Day of Yoga, noting that many yoga teachers, students, studios and classes have contributed to the growth of yoga throughout the country. More than 36 million Americans currently practice yoga, it observes, up from 20 million in 2012. Designation of the day could contribute to understanding of yoga “as a path to uplift the human experience.”

SJR1009 in Tennessee, “Bring Your Pet to the Legislature Day,” aims to recognize that “pets make the world a better place for people,” citing research showing they can reduce the risk of heart disease, help with stress management and promote active lifestyles. It calls for legislators to bring their pets to the Capitol on the day and encourage constituents to visit pet-friendly restaurants and businesses.

Michigan HR0309 recalled the formation of the state’s Potato Industry Commission in 1970, which has provided research, education and promotion in support of a $1.2 billion industry that provides over 3,000 jobs. Michigan is the largest source of potatoes for potato chips, with one in every four bags made from its crop. It proposed the declaration of Potato Day in the state in honor of the Commission’s 50th anniversary.

SJR2004, an Iowa bill, proposes that the honeybee become the state insect. Honeybees provide an estimated $92 million in pollinator services to the state’s agro-ecosystem, it says, while the state’s beekeepers produce more than 4 million pounds of honey each year. Once the resolution is passed, the department of cultural affairs is to obtain photos and other materials for display in the state historical museum.

Mississippi SC536 honors Marty Stuart, a native son who began his career as a professional musician at the age of 13, playing mandolin in the band of bluegrass legend Lester Flatt. Following Flatt’s death, he joined the band of Johnny Cash. Over nearly five decades, his work as songwriter, performer and producer has involved collaborations with country music legends, earning him multiple Grammy awards and induction in the Country Music Hall of Fame. The resolution praises his plan to establish the Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music in Philadelphia, Miss., his hometown. The cultural and education center will also be home to his extensive collection of memorabilia, including instruments and clothing used by iconic country music performers.

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Carl Smith is a senior staff writer for Governing and covers a broad range of issues affecting states and localities. He can be reached at carl.smith@governing.com or on Twitter at @governingwriter.