Idaho lawmakers worried that special recognition of the Idaho giant salamander could lead to federal protections have rejected a grade school student's request that it be named the state amphibian. The House State Affairs Committee voted 10-6 on Monday against 14-year-old Ilah Hickman's plan. It was her fifth attempt in as many years to persuade lawmakers that students made a good choice for state amphibian.
States regularly make official designations that demonstrate their unique qualities. Just about every state in the union has an official state bird, state motto, state song, state flower, etc. Once in a while, these innocuous designations cause political trouble -- the South Carolina effort to create an official state fossil, for example, drew opposition from a creationist lawmaker.
A similar problem arose this week in Idaho where a local teenager asked lawmakers to name an official state amphibian. As the Spokesman-Review reported this week, it didn't go well (via Taegan Goddard).
This might sound a little nutty -- because it is -- but according to the lawmakers who rejected the idea, if Idaho makes the Idaho giant salamander the state's official amphibian, then federal officials might make the salamander an endangered species. And at that point, the state might have to endure all kinds of new regulations from Washington.
According to the Spokesman-Review's article, the state attorney general's office advised Idaho lawmakers that the symbolic measure wouldn't affect federal protections either way -- none of this relates to endangered-species protections -- but GOP legislators were worried anyway.
"My whole concern is potential federal overreach," state Rep. Don Cheatham (R) told the AP.
In fact, the whole thing apparently became quite partisan, with 10 Idaho Republican rallying to defeat the idea before it could even reach the legislative floor, overcoming unanimous Democratic support.
Herpetologist Frank Lundberg, who testified in support of the idea, concluded, "It is a mistake to ever overestimate the ignorance of the Idaho Legislature."
As for 14-year-old Ilah Hickman, she's vowed to "come back next year and push it again."