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New Mexico has 20 official state symbols and may have a 21st before this legislative session is over.
Senate Bill 109, introduced by Sen. George Munoz of Gallup designates the squash blossom necklace as New Mexico’s official state necklace.
Before you get upset about lawmakers wasting time with such trivia, let me say that bills such as this consume very little time and effort of legislators. They are indicative of a state’s culture and provide help in advertising.
Sometimes a new state symbol is the product of a class project from a school in the state. I often have wondered how much good school trips are considering the time, effort and money has to be put into the project.
But when the students come on a specific mission, they have a hook to help them remember the experience and to appreciate how our government works.
Sales of Indian jewelry are a significant aspect of tourism in this state and any help this can give to our economy isn’t wasted. Consequently the bolo tie was adopted as the official tie of the state a few years ago.
Texas and Arizona also have adopted the bolo as their official neckwear, although Arizona calls it a “bola” tie. Our neighbor has always had problems with such things. We didn’t teach them enough during the 250 years they were part of our territory under Spain and Mexico.
Utah, another neighbor, gave the nation pause two weeks ago, when a House committee easily passed a bill making the Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol the official state firearm.
Its sponsor, the House Republican whip, predicts smooth sailing for the bill that would make Utah the first state with an official firearm. A Pennsylvania lawmaker already tried a similar bill this year but public reaction appears to have ended that effort.
Browning’s pistol is one of many inventions by the Utah scientist and inventor. He patented the pistol exactly 100 years ago. It is still in use today.
Bills to create new official state symbols usually pass the Legislature rather easily and with little discussion. An exception occurred in 1965, my first year at the Legislature, when a Torrance County representative introduced a bill to make the pinto bean the state vegetable.
The Rio Arriba County delegation protested that frijoles are nothing without chile. So chile and beans were made the official state vegetable.
In 1995, Rep. Ben Lujan of northern Santa Fe County sought to further promote New Mexico’s chile industry by making “Red or Green” the official state question.
The bill passed easily, with everyone chuckling, until the measure reached new Gov. Gary Johnson’s desk. He made the bill one of his famous 100 vetoes, saying it was a silly waste of time.
Reaction was swift. Even the first lady chided the governor on Santa Fe radio. The bill was introduced the following year and signed without comment.
Having gained momentum, Lujan introduced a subsequent bill answering the state question with “Red, Green or Christmas.”
Gary Johnson wasn’t the first governor to upset a first lady. In 1991, Gov. Bruce King vetoed a child protection bill that had been actively supported by his wife Alice. An expanded version of that bill was introduced early the next year and signed with great fanfare.
One of the more interesting school class visits to Santa Fe occurs in conjunction with Presidents Day when students from Raton and sometimes other districts come to the Capitol with pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution provided by local Lions Clubs.
Students then seek out their districts’ legislators to quiz them on parts of the Constitution.
Lawmakers who have been cornered before have been known to study up on the Constitution. Others, who haven’t studied, know to run when they see kids headed toward them with little booklets.
Sometimes they go to post offices around the state. So watch out.