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They may not be as cute as badgers or as lovely as wood violets.

But a pair of contenders hoping to join the state symbol club would honor two equally famous Wisconsin traditions: cheese and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

One bill, introduced last week, aims to celebrate Lactococcus lactis, a tiny organism that makes the state's estimated $18 billion per year cheese industry possible, by naming it the official state microbe. The other, introduced in the Senate on Wednesday, would designate Harley-Davidson the Wisconsin state motorcycle.

And, yes, Wisconsin would become the first state in the country to have an official bacterium and a state motorbike, according to the bills' proponents.

The lead sponsor of the microbe measure, Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, said his bill pays homage to Wisconsin's cheese heritage while promoting its image as a biotechnology hot spot.

"It's a great, great idea because we're dealing with the dairy industry and biotechnology," Hebl said. "So it deals with two of our foremost industries in Wisconsin."

The bill, Assembly Bill 556, aims to honor the humble microbe for the key role it plays in dairy production. The naturally occurring bacterium ferments milk sugar, or lactose, into lactic acid, a necessary step in making cheese. Its supporters say it would also recognize Wisconsin's booming biotechnology and microbiology research.

Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Leon Young D-Milwaukee, co-sponsored the Harley bill, Senate Bill 394, at the suggestion of the family of Staff Sgt. Jeremy Vrooman, a soldier who died in Iraq last year. Vrooman, 28, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, had family in Superior.

Over the years, the Legislature has recognized 26 state symbols from state animal (badger) and state flower (wood violet) to state dance (polka) and even an official state tartan. The proliferation of symbols has at times angered critics who say legislators are wasting time and money on such trivial matters. But sponsors say the measures cost little if any money.

Meanwhile, the microbe already has a big fan base at UW-Madison, where bacteriologists have started pushing for the bill by creating a Web page that proclaims, "Support Lactococcus lactis as the Wisconsin State Microbe."

Both bills have been referred to committees. So far, no competing microbes or motorcycles are under consideration.

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