Monday, December 19, 2011

Spring peeper leaping to finish line

Spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)
Debra Jeffries' second grade class studies amphibians as part of their curriculum at Crocker Elementary School in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. This year, they exercised their state constitutional right to file a bill in the General Court which declares the spring peeper to be the official amphibian of the Commonwealth.

I noticed in the House of Representatives session log for today that the bill has moved to the Committee on Bills in the Third Reading. That means this bill is rounding third base and on its way home. Votes to engross the bill by the House and Senate and the Governor's signature are all that need to be accomplished for this aqua lung to enjoy its rightful place among official state stuff.

Some people rail at legislation such as this, claiming that we're wasting our time and money on nonsensical things. I disagree.

First off, no one is paid any additional money to shepherd such a bill through the legislature. Not making the spring peeper official would save no one any money.

Secondly, our state constitution gives citizens the right to author bills and petition their government to act on them. These "by request" bills are sometimes important, sometimes not so important, but who's to judge which citizens should be allowed to exercise their constitutional rights and which should be denied?

Thirdly, when we're doing stuff like this, it happens in informal sessions. Only a few people are present and no contentious bills are discussed. If one is, the objection of a single representative kills it. Today's session dealt with 17 items and took a total of 27 minutes.

Lastly, the kids in Ms. Jeffries' class will have a learned an important lesson on how the government works and how they can actually affect change. I would rate this lesson even more important than learning about spring peepers.

Some other official state stuff:

Official bird: Black-capped chickadee
Official game bird: Wild turkey
Official dog: Boston terrier
Official cat: Tabby
Official fish: Cod
Official insect: Lady bug
Official marine mammal: Right whale
Official flower: Mayflower
Official tree: American elm
Official bean: Navy bean
Official beverage: Cranberry juice
Official cookie: Chocolate chip
Official dessert: Boston cream pie


  1. This is an exciting bill to learn of! Who doesn't love the sound of these tiny little guys peeping away in early March? My family used to track the first sounds of them when we lived in the Hudson Valley of New York. Every year they started peeping on the same day, March 12, without fail. This teacher is outstanding in recognizing an opportunity for awareness on several levels for her students. We will certainly be proud to be living in the spring peeper state all because of this really neat effort!! VOTE YES, Randy!!

  2. OK, before anyone jumps on me, I want to state that I know we live in Massachusetts and not in New Hampshire, and, I know that the two states have different laws.

    In New Hampshire, it is against the law to plow private roads. That is unless the private road is designate an "emergency lane". I would guess that the "emergency lane" designation might go to a road that leads to say a power sub-station as is the case in one New Hampshire community. The law actually reads that a private road may be designated as an emergency lane if the "public need to keep the road passable by emergency vehicles is supported by any identified public welfare or safety interest which surpasses or differs from any private benefits to landowners abutting such lane". There are those in that community that do not think that the safety of the abutters surpasses the private benefit. I do think that it surpasses that benefit.

    I think that it surpasses that benefit in this town. I believe that the Town is just trying to save money. To me this is criminal.


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