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State symbols stir up controversy

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Amy Oslica/Graphic Designer

March 7, 2008

Missouri has 22 existing state symbols in place, including the state bird and the state dinosaur.

If three proposed bills pass through the Missouri General Assembly, the state could see a few more symbols introduced this year.

While this large array of state symbols allows Missouri to express its individuality to the nation, some argue there are better ways to spend taxpayers’ dollars.

Rep. Bob Nance, R-Excelsior Springs, said he respects this point of view, but also points out that bills like these, which are easier to understand, give young students an understanding of the legislative process.

“I have had many people express their opinion on how we are wasting tax dollars with these bills, but they help school children learn about how a bill becomes a law,” Nance said.

Nance is attempting to pass a bill that would make the morel our state’s mushroom.

“The morel is the most predominant mushroom in the state,” Nance said. “Richmond, Mo., has held a mushroom festival every year for the past 28 years.”

The Richmond Web site claims the town is the mushroom capital of the world, and the morel is always center stage at the annual festival.

The morel is also featured on one of Missouri’s three conservation license plates, along with the deer and bluebird.

As with most of these state bills, bringing money and tourists to Missouri is a top priority.

Sen. John Loudon, R-Chesterfield, is proposing a bill to make ice cream Missouri’s state dessert, with hopes of bringing tourists to the city.

“We hope to have a statue of some sort put up in St. Louis,” Loudon said. “Bringing tourists to the city is always great financially.”

The ice cream cone was first introduced in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. Elementary students were intrigued by this, and with help from their teachers, proposed the bill to Loudon.

“In this case, the group of kids who proposed the bill did an outstanding job,” Loudon said. “They made a Web site and created awareness about ice cream by contacting industry groups, and I couldn’t help but help them get this passed.”

Loudon doesn’t necessarily agree that creating these state symbolic bills is a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

“Some people say we are wasting time, but I would say that it’s better to spend time on harmless things like this, than some of the other things we do,” Louden said.

Opponents of these bills point to a waste of time and financial costs. According to the Missourinet Web site, each bill costs approximately $10,000 just to introduce and print.

MU political science professor Moises Arce said the money spent on these state symbol bills could be spent on more important priorities.

“You can make the case that there are other priorities,” Acre said. “If these bills are costing money, maybe the money would be better off spent on education and roads.”

Another bill proposed this session would make the state game bird the Kansas Jayhawk, a mythical creature and the mascot of the University of Kansas.

Sen. Dan Clemens, R-Marshfield, who is the bill’s sponsor, could not be reached for comment.

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