The state House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday adding a second verse to the state song to acknowledge Alaska Native culture.
Juneau Republican Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, who authored House Bill 45, said the new verse would be a symbol for all Alaskans.
"HB 45 doesn't address the fiscal gap, it doesn't address permitting, it doesn't address the public safety and in the scheme of things it's probably a little thing," Weyhrauch said during floor debate. "It does reflect our pride in our state, in our people, our diversity, our cultures and our growth - our growth in symbols and a maturing society and state."
The bill brought some opposition, mainly from Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Borough Republicans.
Rep. Carl Gatto, a Palmer Republican, said he likes the song the way it is and questioned whether lawmakers would try to add a third or fourth verse to honor other groups.
"... I'm very much a traditionalist and feel very strongly about establishing a past and holding onto it," Gatto said.
Rep. Bev Masek, a Willow Republican, said the first verse already is representative of all Alaskans and doesn't need to be fixed.
"... A lot of people that live up in my district have said that the second verse is way too long, it's going to increase our state song and the lyrics - it's very, very hard to sing," Masek said.
The measure passed 29-7 and now goes to the Senate where no similar legislation has been offered.
"Alaska Flag's," describing the "eight stars of gold on a field of blue" banner designed by 13-year-old Bennie Benson in the 1920s, was written as a poem by Marie Drake. Set to music by Elinor Dusenbury, it was adopted as Alaska's official song by the territorial Legislature in 1955. The second verse was written by Carol Beery Davis and donated to the University of Alaska in 1987.
Lawmakers, including former Juneau Democratic Rep. Fran Ulmer, have offered several bills to make the new verse official. Last session Aniak Republican Rep. Carl Morgan authored a measure that passed the House but did not make it to a floor vote in the Senate.
Alaska has several official symbols, including the forget-me-not as the state flower, "North to the Future" as the state motto, and the four-spot skimmer dragonfly as the state insect.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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