By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

With a final squeeze, the state Senate last week gave final approval to legislation declaring lemonade to be the official state drink despite objections that the action sends precisely the wrong message to teens who want to affect state policy.

Proponents of HB 2692 pointed out that the measure was crafted by a Gilbert Classical Academy senior Garrett Glover who complained that Arizona lacks an official beverage.

So, he took his case to House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who agreed to be the bill’s champion.

With that backing plus testimony from Garrett, the measure is now headed to Gov. Doug Ducey.

Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, said that’s precisely why lawmakers should not go along.

“This is the most ridiculous standard to be used as an example of civic education,’’ he said.

Mendez said there was a march last year of about 15,000 high school students last year on the Capitol to advocate for gun safety legislation. That included a “die-in’’ demonstration at the House, Senate and governor’s office.

Ducey would not meet with the leaders of the March for Our Lives group.

And legislation to deal with access to weapons, including mandatory background checks for all sales, went nowhere.

“These students were not afforded the same privileges to help shape their legislation and learn about civics as some other people’s constituents are given that privilege,’’ Mendez said. “Yet, this bill was shepherded through this process.”

“It’s really hard to stomach all of what’s going on,’’ Mendez complained.

But he did agree with colleagues on one thing: The fact that this “inconsequential’’ bill got all the way through the process and gun safety legislation did not is truly a “teaching moment.’’

“I’m definitely going to take this to students all around the state,’’ Mendez said.

Sen. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, also complained that lawmakers were dealing with this question even as they have yet to tackle more serious issues like homelessness and the budget.

“But, yet, lemonade is the topic,’’ she said.

But Otondo ended up being one of the 18 votes in favor.

So what changed?

“In Yuma, in my hometown, there are very near, dear friends of mine who have groves and groves of lemons,’’ Otondo told colleagues.

Sen. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, had his own concerns when he voted against the measure two weeks ago.

“I have a personal bias against sugar,’’ he said. “I have come to realize that sugar is as bad for you or worse for you than tobacco.’’

Gray, however, said he is now convinced that it sends the right message that an 18-year-old student can manage to not only propose legislation but get it through the process. And he couldn’t help but punctuate that point with some puns.

“Does lemonade as our state drink really put a bad taste in our mouth?’’ he asked. “No, most people would say it’s sweet.’’

There was no immediate word from Ducey on the fate of the measure.

Garrett told the Gilbert Sun News last month that he wanted to find a state beverage, but wanted something other than water or milk.

“I just think it would be better to have something no one else has,” he said. “We would be copying other states. Arizona is extremely unique. We got Flagstaff and Phoenix, very different vibes. Florida doesn’t have much variety. Having lemonade makes Arizona stick out much more.”

Glover, whose favorite pastime includes talking with friends and listening to music of all genres, is now preparing for his next step in life — college.

He’s been accepted to Arizona State University and West Virginia University, which has offered him a sizeable amount of scholarship money.

His interest includes becoming a pilot, going into politics or agricultural studies.

“Agricultural studies is not one of my big interests or passion,” he said. “I just like nature and we all got to eat so growing food will be a job in the future.”