WORTH NOTING: Lawmakers Key in on State Songs

By: - March 2, 2007 12:00 am

Discord over Florida’s state song could doom “Old Folks at Home” aka “Way Down Upon the Swanee River,” ( listen ). Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) wants to scrap the 1851 minstrel tune by a white songwriter in which a slave longs for “de old plantation” and refers to fellow “darkeys,” the St. Petersburg Times reports. Meanwhile, a panel of Nebraska senators turns thumbs down to an up-tempo country ditty ( listen ) to replace the 40-year-old anthem, “Beautiful Nebraska.”( listen ) Upon hearing a rap version of the new song on the radio, a disgusted state Sen. Ray Janssen said: “I made up my mind right there, that if they can do that to that song, I won’t support it being the state song,” he said, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Is it free speech on the freeway – or way too racy for young eyes? The Arizona House this month refused to outlaw “obscene or hateful” mud flaps, including those that depict naked women, The Associated Press reports. But a Maryland lawmaker is just starting his drive to ban vehicle decorations that depict naked private parts, including fake plastic bull testicles that dangle from trailer hitches, the AP writes.

Maine lobstermen are getting snappy and fishermen are carping in a fight over crustaceans that wind up in fishermen’s nets, The New York Times writes. The fishermen are asking state lawmakers to let them sell caught-up lobsters, but the lobster harvesters say that would invade their surf.

For 200 years, South Carolina has banned gambling games at home that involve cards or dice, but that could change soon. After police arrested and handcuffed a 79-year-old woman playing poker at home, a state lawmaker decided it was time for the ban to go. A proposal by state Rep. Wallace Scarborough’s (R) would allow home games, as long as the house didn’t take a cut, the AP notes.

The war in Iraq will be leaving a temporary hole in Wisconsin state government, the latest vacancy in state capitols created by the conflict. The state’s head of veterans affairs, John Scocos, will head to Iraq for a one-year tour of duty, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. The news comes weeks after Tammy Duckworth, Illinois’ head of veterans affairs, learned her husband, a National Guardsman, is heading to Iraq in March, according to the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, Arizona state Rep. Jonathan Paton (R), an Army intelligence officer, was sworn in two months late for a new state House term, after returning from a six-month stint in Iraq, writes the Arizona Daily Star.

Illinois State Police hope teens will go online to alert authorities about illegal drinking and fake IDs, reports the Peoria Journal Star . The agency says it will monitor the site, www.drunkstopper.com , 24 hours a day and will be on the lookout for false reports.

Marijuana-flavored “chronic candy” or “pot suckers” would be outlawed in Georgia under a measure advanced by a House committee, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Vendors who sold the candy would face fines of up to $1,000. A similar proposal languished last year.

Proper possessive punctuation poses particular problems for people in Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts and Texas, but perhaps the puzzlement will cease in Arkansas. State Rep. Steve Harrelson (D) wants to settle the question of whether to add an extra ‘s’ when referring to something belonging to Arkansas: Is it Arkansas’ or Arkansas’s? Harrelson is voting for the latter, and he hopes the rest of the Legislature will, too, AP reports. It took an act of the Legislature in 1881 – 45 years after becoming a state – just to formalize how the state’s name is spelled.

Looking forward: The National Association of Attorneys General meets in Washington, D.C. next weekend. Highlights include meetings with U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and FBI Director Robert Mueller… High school athletes in New Jersey this year will be the first in the nation to face random drug tests for steroids during the play-offs, The Star Ledger notes.

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