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Originally published Monday, February 7, 2011 at 4:01 PM

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State lawmakers should stick to serious business

A few lawmakers are proposing new or changed state symbols. Who needs it in the middle of a tough recession? Schoolchildren or young constituents often recommend these things and did so this year. But timing, lawmakers, timing.

EVERY so often, lawmakers in Olympia dump enough bills in the hopper that they reveal an inconvenient truth about the 105-day legislative session: These people have too much time on their hands.

How else to explain droppings from state Rep. Ross Hunter, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee? The Medina Democrat took a short break from laborious budget writing to recommend changing the state bird from the willow goldfinch to the great blue heron.

The blue heron is an elegant bird that graces Washington waters. These birds deserve inestimable respect. But where did the goldfinch go wrong?

The goldfinch was selected in 1951 after legislators asked schoolchildren in the state to vote to help decide which bird would best represent the state. The children selected the proud yellow bird with black wings instead of the meadowlark. It's not that such decisions can't be revisited and reconsidered, but, really, at the height of a recession?

Hunter is not alone. State Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, introduced a bill that would designate coffee the official state beverage. Washington currently lacks one and seems just fine. Bailey says the distinction would provide a useful promotional tool for businesses. Perhaps.

Hunter and Bailey both got their ideas from schoolchildren or young constituents. Hunter said sometimes lawmakers have to do things that help students understand the legislative process.

Bailey's bill, also landing at a time of great need for serious budget work, rattles those who think apple or cranberry juice or wine are better choices since crops are grown in Washington. But the apple is already the state fruit.

Who needs it?

State Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, ponders the state rock, which we currently lack. Petrified wood is the state gem. Swecker understands that state symbols are a distraction from the real work at hand, but he, too, was egged on by students who want Tenino sandstone to become the state rock.

Time is precious. Lawmakers should leave all of the above alone. What's next? A full-scale attack on the rhododendron?

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