AUGUSTA — Legislation that would take an iconic symbol of Maine’s coastal heritage and tourism economy and give it official status was put on hold by state lawmakers Thursday.

Not to worry, lobster lovers. The bill to make the lobster the official state crustacean hasn’t hit a boiling point, but it is on the back burner just for now.

The bill, offered by Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage and sponsored by Rep. Peter Lyford, R-Eddington, is the result of a request to LePage from a group of third-graders in Brewer.

“I am a third-grader learning about state symbols,” one of the students at the Brewer Community School in Brewer 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 students’ teachers, Cherrie MacInnes, wrote, too.

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


But alas, on Thursday that was not to be.

Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, moved to table the measure, but not because she thinks the lobster is unworthy.

House Democrats were poised to unanimously support the bill and send it to the state Senate on Thursday.

But Espling said Republicans wanted to set the bill aside so they could send it to the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee where it could receive a full public hearing.

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

“It’s about the kids,” Espling said. She said the Republican caucus saw the bill as a learning opportunity for the students.


“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,” Espling said.

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.

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said Democrats didn’t want to shut the kids out of the process. However, with the end of the lawmaking session less than 60 days away, he said, time is of the essence for the Legislature, which still has dozens of important bills to process.

“Of course, we support the lobster. What else would be the official state crustacean?” McCabe said. He noted there would be a cost to the vetting process the Republicans want to pursue, because it will take staff time to hold a hearing and process the bill.

“If the issue was actually initiated by students, that’s actually exciting that they are interested in the process, but for me, looking at the date and the fact we are trying to get out of here in April, I’m being very mindful of staff time,” McCabe said. “We decided the thing to do to save time and taxpayers’ dollars was just have a straight up-or-down vote on it.”

McCabe said if LePage and Republicans in the House were interested in helping the students learn about the lawmaking process, they should instead set up a mock session.

The lobster wasn’t the only food item put on low heat Thursday.

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

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.