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Sunday, April 20, 2014

House set to vote on state grass

By DAVID KLEPPER
Eagle Topeka bureau

TOPEKA — A proposal to make the little bluestem Kansas' official state grass didn't exactly sail through the Legislature.

Indeed, the legislation generated 45 minutes of spirited debate Wednesday in the Kansas House.

One lawmaker from Western Kansas preferred buffalo grass. Another nominated the big bluestem.

"I was astounded that little blue was in the discussion," said Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona. "It's not a notable grass in the western part of the state. Big blue is what's notable."

In the end, lawmakers stuck with what one supporter called "the compromise species."

"Little blue is something that is statewide," said Rep. Tom Moxley, a Council Grove Republican whose legislative desk sported a large vase of cut grass. "It's a wonderful grass here and it's a wonderful grass all over the state. Big blue is very regional."

The big bluestem also happens to be Missouri's state grass.

A few legislators grumbled that the grass debate was a waste of time. Lawmakers are struggling to address a budget deficit of nearly $500 million. The state has had to cut funds for education and make disabled citizens wait for services.

This is at least the third time there's been an effort to give the little bluestem state recognition. The idea was championed by biology students at Shawnee Mission South High School, who want to promote interest in grassland ecosystems.

"With all the important issues that we have, it seems that every year we have to debate the state grass," said Rep. Bill Otto, R-LeRoy.".. Get us a state grass. Get 'er done and then let's get on with the important things."

Otto's remarks drew loud applause from Kansans watching the debate from the House balcony.

A final vote today will send the grass legislation to the Senate.

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