JUNEAU (AP) -- The state House voted Wednesday to add a new verse honoring Alaska Natives to the state song, although some representatives argued the change unnecessarily tampers with tradition.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau, said adding the verse reflects the state's growth and pride in its diverse cultures.
''We as a state have grown and matured, and this bill has support from around the state for the symbol that it is, a symbol of our flag, a symbol of the pride of living and working together as Alaskans,'' Weyhrauch said.
Adding the verse was one of the recommendations of a 2001 Commission on Tolerance, appointed by then-Gov. Tony Knowles in response to racially motivated paintball attacks on Alaska Natives.
The song ''Alaska's Flag'' was written by Marie Drake and composed by Elinor Dusenbury. It was adopted as the official state song in 1956.
Carol Beery Davis, a former poet laureate of Alaska, wrote the second verse in the 1980s when she was 95 but it has never been officially adopted by the Legislature.
Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, argued against adding to the song.
He said when Drake donated the song to the University of Alaska in 1960, she did so to preserve it. Adding to it now would be inappropriate, he said.
''We don't take our most famous painting and say, you know what, I think this would be better if we put a hat on it, or something like that,'' Gatto said.
But Rep. Carl Morgan, R-Aniak, said Marie Drake and Carol Beery Davis, who both lived in Juneau, were friends. The time has come to add to the original song, he said.
''Change is hard, yes I realize that,'' Morgan said. ''But I think this bill is a feel-good bill. It makes everybody feel good. I don't know who's offended by it. How could you be offended by it?''
Morgan sponsored a similar bill last year, which passed the House 35-0, but died in a Senate committee.
Rep. Bev Masek, R-Willow, said she sees no need for the change. Her constituents complain the second verse is too long, and the lyrics are hard to sing, she said.
The bill was approved 29-to-7. Voting against it were Republicans Nancy Dahlstrom of Eagle River, Jim Holm of Fairbanks, Vic Kohring of Wasilla, Bob Lynn of Anchorage, Bill Stoltze of Chugiak, Gatto and Masek.
Absent for the vote were Reps. Reggie Joule, D-Kotzebue, Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, Carl Moses, D-Unalaska, Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski.
The measure now goes to the Senate.
Following are lyrics of the proposed second verse of ''Alaska's Flag'':
A Native lad chose the Dipper's stars/For Alaska's flag that there be no bars/Among our cultures. Be it known/Through years the Natives' past has grown/To share life's treasures, hand in hand/To keep Alaska our Great Land/We love the northern, midnight sky,/The mountains, lakes and streams nearby./The great North Star with its steady light/Will guide all cultures, clear and bright,/With nature's flag to Alaskans dear,/The simple flag of the last frontier.
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