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The Official Guide to Official Massachusetts

The Official Guide to Official Massachusetts

June 15, 2005

OK, it's got nothing to do with health care. Just click here and connect to the 51 official emblems of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including such gems as the state's: official donut, cookie, glee club song, polka, folk hero, muffin, cat ... you get the idea. (Thanks to HCFA's web-star John Lin for finding this.) How does it happen that these designations occur? Good question.

Usually, an energetic high school social studies teacher decides to teach a class about the legislative process and tries to find the most noncontroversial matter imaginable ("let's designate blah the officlal state blah!"). The local state senator and reps are usually happy to comply.

Sometimes it goes like clockwork, and other times, the unexpected happens. For example, the plucky students trying to declare the corn muffin as the official state muffin (chapter 2, section 28) ran into an unexpected roadblock in the form of the cranberry muffin. After a fierce battle, corn prevailed -- there's value in getting there first. Similarly, the chocolate chip cookie (invented in Plymouth) lobby thought they had an easy win (chapter 2, section 42) until they ran into the fig newton (guess where that was invented?).

My favorite meaningless designation moment: in June 1996, the House passed landmark health reform legislation that would result in the expansion of Medicaid by more than 300,000 low income persons, and we did it by a more-than-two thirds margin, meaning we had the votes to override a certain veto from Gov. Bill Weld. Not too shabby, I thought, and looked forward to seeing how the evening TV news would report the story. All three major stations were at the State House that day to report the big news -- but it had nothing to do with health reform. All stations reported on the same legislative hearing that day -- a bill to declare the Boston Cream Pie as the official state dessert (chapter 2, section 41).

God save the Commonwealth.