AUGUSTA, Maine — Legislation to make the lobster, an iconic symbol of Maine’s coastal heritage, the official “state crustacean” was put on a slow boil by lawmakers Thursday.

The legislation, offered by Republican Gov. Paul LePage and sponsored by Rep. Peter Lyford, R-Eddington, stemmed from a request to LePage from Brewer third-graders.

“I am a third-grader learning about state symbols,” one of the third-graders at the Brewer Community School wrote to Lyford. “I want to make the lobster the state crustacean because other states like Louisiana have state crustaceans. Plus the lobster brings in more than $1 billion.”

One of the Brewer teachers, Cherrie MacInnes, wrote, “It would be nice for the Legislature to get to vote on something that everyone, regardless of political party, can agree on.”

Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, who moved to table the bill, said it was because Republicans wanted to send it before the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee for a full public hearing.

That way, she said, the students who came up with the idea could participate in the lawmaking process.

“It’s about the kids,” Espling said. “We were kind of short-changing their involvement in it, so there was a desire to have it be vetted like any other bill and the students could be a part of that vetting process.”

She said a bill that made the whoopie pie the official state snack several years ago is one she frequently uses to discuss the lawmaking process with students. She said the lobster bill could be another that would make it easy for students to see how a bill becomes law.

Lobster wasn’t the only food item put on the back burner Thursday.

Another bill that would have aligned Maine regulations on hard cider making with federal law also was tabled by the Legislative Council as State House leaders contemplated whether the bill should be allowed under its rules for emergency legislation.

Scott Thistle

Scott Thistle is the State Politics Editor for the Lewiston Sun Journal. He has covered federal, state and local politics in Maine for nearly two decades.