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This Month In Weird Or Unappreciated State Politics

Featuring turnips, missing gavels, and porn

A new month, a new crop of unrecognized, strange, sad, or wonderful moments happening in politics at the state and local level. Here are some of our favorites.

Missouri: Have you seen our gavel?

If you see an unsupervised and somewhat big wooden gavel laying around, let the Missouri State Senate know. The legislators have no idea where theirs went. It’s been missing for more than a month at this point, which means its chances of survival might be slim. According to the Associated Press, “Senators have been using a smaller, backup gavel.”

Alaska: Side effects of insomnia include excessive hyperbole

Earlier this month, the Alaska State Legislature was stuck dealing with bills until three in the morning on a weekend. One legislator said that the early morning cram session was “just short of waterboarding.” Fact check: Yeah, no.

Rhode Island: The saddest end to a winning streak ever

Gloria and John Capuano have voted in every single presidential election for more than 70 years, according to WPRI. They didn’t get to vote in Tuesday’s primary in Rhode Island, however. Many of the state’s polling places closed down, expecting fewer voters in an end-of-primary-season contest. Their new polling location, up a steep hill, was not 90-year-old friendly. “We said, ‘Oh, I guess we can’t vote,’ because there was no one there to help us. So we came home.”

Vermont: Turnout for turnips

State legislators debated whether to officially name the Gilfeather turnip the official state vegetable this week. The Associated Press noted back in January that the veggie portmanteau was “developed by John Gilfeather, a farmer and legislator who lived about a century ago, and who crossbred a turnip with a rutabaga.” The annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival will take place on October 22 in Wardsboro, and students from that town proposed the bill being considered. There’s even a song.

Louisiana: Vive la France

The state Senate unanimously passed a measure requiring that all public schools teach students how to write in cursive so they can “have a signature.” According to the Times-Picayune, “legislators yelled ‘America!’ and ‘Vive la France’” when the bill was passed. The bill isn’t law yet; the House still needs to consider it. There is no requirement that students be taught how to type correctly in the state. During debate on the measure in the Senate, the bill’s sponsor said, "The kids already know how to type.”

Maine: Thanks, idiots

Governor Paul LePage stomped offstage during a dedication ceremony at the University of Maine at Farmington this week, after he saw two college students quietly holding signs critical of his administration. "Thanks, idiots,” he said, before leaving mid-speech. One sign read, “LePage: Maine’s Shame.” One of the students wrote on Facebook that “April 26th, 2016, will forever rest in my memory as the day Paul LePage personally called me an idiot.”

LePage later apologized, and said, “Since I am such a distraction to the media, I will no longer attend some of these public events.” Less than a week earlier, he complained about not being able to understand foreign workers, adding that people from India are "the worst ones,” and said that Obama stands for "one big-ass mistake, America."

Texas: Cross your fingers for Schooly McSchoolerson

The school board in Austin decided that it would be a good idea to change the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary, and started asking the public for suggestions. The process, which ended on April 15, went about as well as all attempts to ask the public for name suggestions go. Donald J. Trump Elementary, with 45 submissions, was the most popular option, per the Austin American-Statesman. Other suggestions included Adolf Hitler School for Friendship and Tolerance, Hypothetical Perfect Person Memorial, Schooly McSchoolerson, Schooly McSchoolerton, and Schoolie McSchoolface. The final option references, of course, the new, maligned hero of unfortunate naming exercises in the U.K. The British people decided recently, via a very authoritative online poll, that they wanted the U.K.'s expensive new research vessel to be named Boaty McBoatface. The science minister disagreed. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Schoolie McSchoolface shippers, but the odds do not seem to be in your favor.

Colorado: New law enforcement look, same great civil taste

The entire police force in Green Mountain Falls quit shortly after the new mayor took office. “Entire police force” means “four people” in this small town. Green Mountain Falls hasn’t become a lawless hellhole in the aftermath; although the news is the biggest in town since a popular goose named Roy "was killed by dogs at the pond,” according to the Colorado Independent, not much has changed. One business owner told the website, “No one is looting the town right now.”

Tennessee: Prom planners, report to the Beer Board

Nashville is debating whether to get rid of an ancient law from the faraway 1960s that requires all public dances to get a $100 permit from the Metro Beer Board. Yes, even proms have to pay the Beer Board for the right to dance. “So if you have a father-daughter dance at preschool,” one councilman added to The Tennessean, “you’re supposed to get a $100 permit from the beer board.” It is not clear if father-daughter dances are also a leftover from the 1960s that need to be eliminated. The local law also notes that “It is unlawful for any known prostitute, male or female procurer or vagrant to be present at any public dance or at any public dancehall.”

Utah: The Internet is for Public Health Crises

Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution calling pornography “a public health crisis.” The Atlantic notes that a bill that would have allowed schools to offer more robust sex ed failed earlier this year, and that “Utah remains one of the majority of states that today prioritize ‘abstinence only’ or ‘abstinence first’ approaches to sex education.”

Minnesota: Party Like It’s H.B. 1999

After passing a resolution honoring Prince, state lawmakers sang "Purple Rain." State Representative Peggy Flanagan led the sing-along.

New York: Yield to Stolen Signs

The mayor of Frankfort — who has been in office for more than a decade — was arrested for stealing 111 road signs from the Department of Transportation. He works at the sign shop, and allegedly was pilfering the signs so they could be used in town. According to the Rome Sentinel, he “stole speed limit and other road signs, not street name signs.” A state police official told Time Warner Cable News that he took "everything from ‘stop' signs, ‘yield' signs, normal traffic signs.” He will remain mayor, per the AP. It is not clear whether he is running for reelection, and if so, on the platform of making sure Frankfort has the shiniest signs in all the land.