Illinois lawmakers could name official state soda, microbe

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) -- Illinois could get an official state drink and an official state microbe.

The northern cardinal is the official state bird. The monarch butterfly is the official state insect. The violet is the official state flower. And the white oak is the state tree. There's even a state fossil (Tully monster) and state soil (Drummer silty clay loam) and a state tartan. One state Senator wants to go even smaller.

State Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, got an idea from a local columnist in a “kind of … almost tongue-in-cheek kind of way” to designate an official state microorganism.

“Maybe we should look at making penicillium the official state microbe,” Koehler said. “Now, there’s a big story behind this because Peoria was the place back in the late 40s where penicillin was actually developed.”

He said while penicillin (not penicillium) was discovered in England, the specific microbe he’s talking about, Penicillium chrysogenum NRRL 1951, went further in a “fascinating” story.

“Cantaloupe that had grown some mold, a woman brought this in and it was used as the development of the next level of penicillin because what they had developed in England was not stable enough to actually be commercially developed and used as a medicine.”

Koehler’s measure, Senate Bill 1857, could get a hearing Wednesday afternoon in the Senate State Government Committee.

House Bill 3073 isn’t likely to settle the soda vs. pop debate, but one state representative wants to see if Illinois can make Ski the state's official drink.

Popcorn is the official snack of the state of Illinois. The state vegetable is sweet corn. Legislators in the Land of Lincoln have even made pumpkin the state’s officials pie. State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, is looking to make the citrus, cane sugar drink Ski the official state soda.

“It’s a small family business located in Breese, Illinois,” Meier said of Excel Bottling Co. “It’s been in business over 60 years. The family had information on a bank robber, turned him in and they used the reward money and started this soda company.”

Meier said big beverage companies oppose his idea.

“They’re saying that the state of Illinois can’t endorse a specific product and that’s why they don’t want Ski endorsed,” Meier said. “But it’s made in the state of Illinois. It started in the state of Illinois and once you have a Ski, you’re going to want to have one every day.”

Illinois tourism promotions do regularly feature Illinois products, companies and other brands, but in the list of designations, there’s no official brand of combines, or bulldozers or airplanes.

Meier’s measure is in the House State Government Administration committee and could get a hearing Wednesday afternoon.

“Big soda companies aren't so happy about this. We’re going to have to see what we can do about it,” Meier said.

“We like that people enjoy our product,” Excel's third generation General Manager William Meier said Friday. He is not related to the state representative.

“Charlie is a great guy and trying to give us credit,” Meier said. “The idea is good to give credit, but I am neutral” on the bill.

“We’re a commercial entity and don’t get into the politics,” Meier said. “Glad Charlie loves our product.”

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Illinois state symbols:

Illinois State Amphibian: Eastern Tiger Salamander

Illinois State Animal: White-tailed Deer

Illinois State Bird: Northern Cardinal

Illinois State American Folk Dance: Square Dance

Illinois State Fish: Bluegill

Illinois State Flower: Violet

Illinois State Fossil: Tully Monster

Illinois State Fruit: GoldRush Apple

Illinois State Insect: Monarch Butterfly

Illinois State Mineral: Fluorite

Illinois State Pie: Pumpkin

Illinois State Prairie Grass: Big Bluestem

Illinois State Reptile: Painted Turtle

Illinois State Snack Food: Popcorn

Illinois State Soil: Drummer Silty Clay Loam

Illinois State Song: "Illinois"

Illinois State Tree: White Oak

Illinois State Vegetable: Sweet Corn

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