By John Celock
New Jersey lawmakers are one step closer to designating an official state candy.
The state Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee unanimously passed legislation Thursday that would designate salt water taffy as the official state candy. Lawmakers advanced the legislation following testimony from fifth grade students at Samsel Upper Elementary School in Sayreville, who developed the idea.
“I challenged them to come up with an idea of a bill becoming a law,” Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville), the bill’s sponsor, told the committee of the legislation’s creation. “I was given by them an idea of salt water taffy becoming the state candy.”
A group of students from Samsel Upper Elementary School addressed the committee about the history of salt water taffy and the importance of passing the legislation to the state’s tourism industry. Salt water taffy was created by David Bradley, an Atlantic City candy store owner, after his taffy supply was flooded with salt water from the Atlantic Ocean following a storm. A customer had asked for taffy and Bradley joked it was now flavored with salt water and the item gained popularity.
The students focused on the candy’s history and how they have learned about the importance of state symbols during fourth grade classes on New Jersey history and government. They also noted that Sayreville and the Jersey Shore region were both hard hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and how the Shore is still rebuilding.
“The state is rebuilding our Shore and boardwalk, wouldn’t it be great for our state to encourage people to come to the Shore to purchase our state candy,” one student told lawmakers.
Among New Jersey’s existing state symbols include the horse as the state mammal, the European honey bee as the state insect, square dancing as the state dance, the northern red oak as the state tree, the dogwood as the state memorial tree, the northern high bush blueberry as the state fruit and the Jersey tomato as the state vegetable.
Designating new state symbols have come up in other states this year. Missouri lawmakers passed legislation to designate jumping jacks as the state exercise and Kansas lawmakers designated the pteranodon and the tylosaurus as the state fossils. The Missouri bill is pending with Gov. Jay Nixon (D) while Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has signed the fossil bill.
There is comparison between the New Jersey and Missouri bills with students from Pershing Elementary School in St. Joseph, Mo. proposed the idea in the Show Me State. General John J. Pershing, a Missouri native, who invented jumping jacks when he was an instructor at West Point. StJoeChannel.com reported last month that Pershing students have been lobbying for the jumping jack bill since 2009.
New Jersey lawmakers expressed support for the kids and noted the importance of salt water taffy along the Jersey Shore and in the Atlantic City region. Assemblywoman Valerie Vaineri Huttle (D-Englewood) hopes the students will be able to continue to help push the bill to Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) desk.
“I hope when the governor does a public signing, he invites these students to witness this,” she said. “It is important that young students learn about what goes on here.”
Vaineri Huttle also disclosed that she and other lawmakers enjoyed some taffy prior to the meeting with the Englewood lawmaker indulging in banana chocolate taffy. The comment prompted Wisniewski to tell the students of some legislative perks.
“When you get to become a legislator you get to have candy before lunch,” he said to laughter.