PHOENIX -- State lawmakers took the first steps Tuesday to officially declaring Arizona "The Grand Canyon State' -- quick, before Nevada claims it.
The push for HB 2447 follows the discovery by Marshall Trimble, the state historian, that the phrase that appears on license plates, tourist brochures and even signs welcoming visitors to Arizona actually has no official status. And Trimble said he discovered that only because a school girl asked him about it.
"So I made a promise to this girl that I would see what I could do,' Trimble told members of the House Government Committee. And he convinced Rep. Sam Crump, R-Anthem, to sponsor the required legislation.
"With our centennial coming up, it would be a nice gift to the people of Arizona,' Trimble said. Arizona became a state on Feb. 14, 1912.
"And, besides, the people of Arizona got a lot of bad news last year,' Trimble continued, referring to the state's finances. "It would be a nice thing to present to them to have a real state nickname.'
But Barry Aarons, lobbyist for the Arizona Tourism Alliance, said there's more than just pride involved. He cited a survey done more than a decade ago of foreign visitors to the Grand Canyon.
"Seventy-one percent think the Grand Canyon is in Las Vegas,' he said.
That, he said, is not surprising.
He said many of the tours of the canyon, both by air and bus, originate in Las Vegas. And he said that may lead foreign visitors to believe that the canyon is simply an extension of the city on its far outskirts.
"Doing this makes a statement,' Aarons said.
That statement, though, would exist legally only within the Secretary of State's Office which keeps track of the various "official' state items. That includes turquoise as the state gemstone, the palo verde as the state tree, the cactus wren as state bird, the Apache trout as the state fish and even the bola tie as the official state neckwear.
But Aarons said it's more than that.
"It enables us to say something about ourselves,' he continued. "And I think it is therefore more important than the paper it is written on.'
The 8-0 vote sends the measure to the full House. The chances of it become law are good: An identical bill gained House approval last year but died in the final days of the Senate when lawmakers were trying to finish work on the budget.