PHOENIX -- Some Tucson fourth graders and their teacher were able to accomplish something that often eludes lobbyists: Get legislation they wanted signed into law.
Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday signed a measure which declares copper to be Arizona's official state metal.
It all becomes official sometime this summer, on the 91st day after the Legislature finally adjourns for the year. And at that point it will join the host of other "official'' state items, ranging from the palo verde as the state tree and the bola tie as official neckwear to the Colt single-action Army revolver as the state firearm.
As it turns out, it was not originally the intent of Jennifer Royer who teaches at Copper Creek Elementary School to change the law.
Royer told Capitol Media Services her students were learning about all the existing state symbols.
That, she said, led to a discussion of what else might be appropriate. And her students concluded not only that Arizona needed an official state metal but that copper was the logical choice.
And eventually the discussion turned from why there was no state metal to why not.
That led to crafting a proposal. But the idea went nowhere until last year when a new crop of fourth graders came up with the same idea. And Royer found out that one parent had political ties, facilitating a hookup with Al Melvin, then a state senator who represented the area.
Melvin is gone after an ill-fated bid for governor. But his successor, Steve Smith of Maricopa agreed to pick up the fight, introduce the bill and get it a hearing where students could testify.
From there the measure cruised along, gaining unanimous Senate and House approval, before winding up on the governor's desk.
It would be wrong to assume that just because students introduced what appears to be an innocuous piece of legislation that its future is guaranteed.
Consider what happened in 1998.
Chris Fathauer, then a 9-year old from Ahwatukee, sought to have the Dilophosaurus declared the official state dinosaur. He argued that was an appropriate choice because its bones have been found only in Northern Arizona.
John Huppenthal, then a state senator from the area, agreed to take up the cause. He introduced legislation, saying it would give schoolchildren all over Arizona an issue to follow in the Legislature -- to say nothing about a lesson in politics.
They got more than they bargained for.
A volunteer at the Tucson-based Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, whose teams have unearthed skeletons on state land near Sonoita, chose to weigh in with its own choice: the Sonorasaurus, first discovered in 1994.
The fight was on.
Chris made his plea to lawmakers, saying the Dilophosaurus was one of the dinosaurs featured in "Jurassic Park,'' meaning it has an innate appeal to kids. And it had the added benefit of being a meat eater, he told lawmakers.
But Gerard Tsonakwa argued the sheer size of the Sonorasaurus -- 25 tons, 60 feet long and 12 feet high at the shoulder -- made it a more appropriate choice than the 20-foot-long Dilophosaurus.
The net result was a stalemate. And to this day Arizona does not have an official state dinosaur.