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Missouri could get two new state symbols

Crayfish, big bluestem grass would become official
Friday, April 27, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:31 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Big bluestem grass can grow between 8 and 9 feet tall.

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri soon could have two more official state symbols after the Senate gave final legislative approval Thursday to bills creating an official state invertebrate and grass.

If the governor approves the bills, the crayfish — which the legislation notes also is called a crawfish and crawdad — would become the official invertebrate. The big bluestem, known scientifically as Andropogon gerardii, would become the official grass.

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They would add to the existing list of 20 state symbols.

The Senate did not reach a vote on separate bills creating a state game bird and a state reptile, though those bills could get further debate later this year.

Some senators complained the state is piling up too many symbols that mean little and waste state time and money.

“We’re starting to name a state everything,” said Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis. “There’s got to be some more cost-effective way to do a state everything. We seem to be getting more and more of them. I’m not quite sure what the point is.”

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, who handled some of the bills, was grilled by other senators on his knowledge of state symbols.

Generally the ideas are generated by schoolchildren in lawmakers’ districts, and few want to oppose them. But, like any other idea, the measures sometimes take more than one try from initial introduction to becoming law.

For example, Rep. Bob May, R-Rolla, has sought since 2003 to make big bluestem the official state grass — an idea cultivated by a group of hometown students who at the time were in fourth grade and were studying conservation.

Some senators said that seeing a bill struggle and change through the process provides a civics lesson, as well.

“Do you think one of the things the schoolchildren could learn is that every idea they have cannot pass into law?” asked Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield.

Despite some frustration over the expansion of state symbols, senators gave overwhelming approval to the grass and crayfish bills. The House passed the bills last month.

Some of Missouri’s existing state symbols include the bluebird (state bird), the honey bee (state insect) and the channel catfish (state fish).


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