MADISON (WKOW) -- A bill naming the bacterium that converts milk into cheese as the official state microbe passed easily Thursday with 7-1 vote.
MADISON (WKOW) -- You may know Wisconsin's state animal (the badger), the state bird (the robin), or even the state dance (the polka). Now Wisconsin lawmakers want to name an official state microbe.
It's called Lactococcus Lactis, and it's the microbe that turns milk into cheese. Supporters presented Assembly Bill 556 Thursday to the Committee on State Affairs and Homeland Security.
In light of a number of other issues, many wonder how prudent it is for the Assembly to take the time to pass what they call a frivolous bill when so many other issues, namely the drunken driving bill, remain unresolved.
But committee members were all smiles today and say this bill won't take time away from other, more important measures.
"It might take 10 or 15 minutes because people appreciate some of the humor of it and may want to speak that way, but we're not playing this bill, for instance, against the budget or some of the law enforcement questions," said committee chair Frederick Kessler (D-Milwaukee).
"We call those people who oppose it lactose intolerant," joked Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie), who is behind the bill.
Supporters say the bill may seem silly, but it has its merits.
"We want people to know that as a result of this little microbe, we are able to produce these things for Wisconsin, and it's a tremendous backbone to our industrial complex," said Hebl.
Wisconsin's cheese-making industry brings in 18 billion dollars a year. That's twice as much as the citrus industry in Florida, and seven times as much as potatoes in Idaho.
Plus, establishing a state microbe could spark national attention.
"It doesn't cost anything to have a state microbe, but it really is a great advertising tool so that we can sell what Wisconsin is really great at to the world," said Hebl.
"I think other states would try to think of other, cooler microbes to pick but I don't think they could find one, so they'd be jealous," said Regina Whitemarsh, a microbiology student at UW-Madison.
Committee members expect to pass the measure unanimously when they vote Dec. 17, and it will likely head to the full Assembly sometime in January.
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MADISON (WKOW) -- The public will have a chance to weigh in on the nomination for an official state Microbe Thursday.
A state Assembly committee scheduled a public hearing on a bill that would designate the microbe that converts milk into cheese as Wisconsin's official microbe.
State Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) says naming Lactococcus lactis honors Wisconsin's cheese-making history and increases publicity about the importance of the state's biotech industry.
If passed, Wisconsin would become the first state with an official microbe.
The public hearing is scheduled to begin at 12:00 p.m. Thursday at the state capitol.
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