By John Toole
---- — DERRY — A New Hampshire Senate committee is recommending passage for a bill pushed by Derry students to make the white potato the state vegetable.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee issued its unanimous, 5-0 recommendation last week after a hearing in Concord.
The bill is up for Senate action Thursday.
House Bill 535 was sponsored by a group of Derry lawmakers on behalf of Derry Village Elementary School students.
While there could be Senate debate — the bill is on the regular calendar, not the consent portion — Rep. James Webb, R-Derry, one of the co-sponsors, said he is encouraged by the Senate committee vote.
"If it comes out favorable from committee, generally the Senate goes with the committee recommendation," Webb said. "If it makes it through committee, there is a good chance they will approve it."
The House passed the bill in February over the objection of broccoli lovers, 276-75.
During House debate, Rep. John O'Connor, R-Derry, told lawmakers research by fourth-graders at the school showed Derry is where the first white potato was grown in North America.
"It has been confirmed that Rev. James MacGregor brought a sack of seed potatoes and planted them in 1719 in an area called Nutfield, now known as Derry," O'Connor said.
But Rep. James Parison, R-New Ipswich, challenged the bill for those who favor broccoli.
Parison told the House he had learned on the Internet that broccoli is "the crown jewel of nutrition," and that President Thomas Jefferson had grown broccoli.
"That makes broccoli a patriotic vegetable," Parison said.
Webb isn't concerned the broccoli lobby will sack the potato bill at this point.
"That was amusing, to say the least," Webb said of Parison's challenge from the House floor.
Teachers Amy Landry and Sandi Ward led a group of 43 students from the Derry Village Elementary School to the Statehouse for the House debate.
Should the Senate pass the bill, there is still one more hurdle to the potato becoming the state vegetable.
Gov. Maggie Hassan will have to decide whether to sign the bill into law or veto the measure.
Hassan has yet to signal whether she prefers broccoli or potato.