ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — New Jersey has an official state bird (the goldfinch), flower (the common violet), tree (the red oak), fish (the brook trout), folk dance (the square dance), bug (the honeybee) and even a dinosaur (Hadrosaurus foulkii). One lawmaker reckons that what New Jersey needs now is an official state candy.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski is pushing a bill to honor salt water taffy with the designation. He introduced it after meeting with students at Sayreville's Samsel Upper Elementary School for a lesson on how a bill becomes law. The measure cleared an Assembly committee on Thursday.
Wisniewski had asked the students to come up with something that deserved to become a law. They wanted to name an official state candy and chose salt water taffy, which was invented in Atlantic City as a popular souvenir of a trip to the shore in the late 19th century. (The sugar-laden confection does not actually contain any salt water.)
Testifying Thursday before the Assembly tourism committee in Trenton, fifth-grader Tyler Graham said designating an official state candy can help boost tourism at the Jersey shore in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
"Wouldn't it be nice to give citizens a reason to come to the shore and purchase the official state candy?" he asked.
Atlantic City became the epicenter of the salt water taffy world, with confectioners Enoch James, Joseph Fralinger and William Shriver founding taffy and candy companies bearing their names.
The bill now goes to the full Assembly.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle commended the students and thanked them for the samples they passed out.
"My favorite flavor is banana and chocolate," she said. "I already had one."
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo said, "The lesson is that when you become a legislator, you get to have candy before lunch."