N.Y. Senate's yogurt debate becomes late-night fodder
The New York Senate is debating whether to make yogurt the state's official snack.
David Klepper, The Associated Press
Published Friday, May 9, 2014 1:01PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 9, 2014 2:27PM EDT
ALBANY, N.Y. -- The New York Senate's debate about declaring yogurt the state's official snack was intended to teach a fourth-grade class about government -- but mockery from David Lettermen and Jon Stewart left some lawmakers with a sour taste.
The Senate spent 45 minutes this week debating the merits of the legislation, which was introduced at the urging of students from a dairy-producing area in western New York.
Before passing the bill, senators mulled the distinction between snacks and meals and whether other snacks were more deserving.
"What exactly are we defining as a snack?" asked Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-Bronx.
"I think it's self-explanatory. I mean, you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then you have snacks," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst.
"Did you consider, say, the potato chip?" Rivera asked, posing the same question about raisins and pretzels.
Letterman and Stewart skewered the exchange on their shows, with Letterman playing video from the debate as part of a segment called "New York State: Your Tax Dollars at Work."
Stewart called the deliberations "maybe the best 40 minutes" of legislative debate ever.
"Even the fourth graders who brought this up in the first place are like, 'They're still talking about the state snack?"' Stewart said.
Some of the frivolity was staged as a parliamentary protest.
Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, wrote on Facebook that she asked silly questions -- including one about the bill's implications for lactose-intolerant New Yorkers -- as a way to criticize the priorities of Senate leaders. If Senate leaders "make us talk about yogurt, then that's what we'll talk about until they give us something better to do."
Yogurt is big business in New York state, particularly in Genesee County, home to the elementary students who suggested the bill while studying American government.
"We're a dairy farming community, and there's huge pride in that," said Casey Kosiorek, the local superintendent of schools. "This has been a chance for some true authentic learning."
There's no word on when the state Assembly may take up the bill.
Other states with official state snacks include Texas (chips and salsa), Illinois (popcorn) and South Carolina (boiled peanuts).