A new state rock? Lawmakers approve bill to prioritize scientific accuracy in state symbols

March 28, 2024

FRANKFORT – Coal is currently Kentucky’s state mineral, though it isn’t really a mineral in scientific terms. There’s also debate about whether agate, the state rock, has received the accurate designation.

Those questions are being laid to rest, thanks to the work of state lawmakers and scientists who are prioritizing scientific accuracy in state symbols.

A bill that received final approval in the Kentucky General Assembly on March 27 makes changes to several state symbol designations so that they become geologically accurate. Under House Bill 378:

· Coal will become the state rock.

· Agate will become the state gemstone.

· Calcite will become the state mineral.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Al Gentry, a lawmaker from Louisville with a geology degree, has been years in the making.

Dr. Trent Garrison, a former president of the Kentucky Academy of Science, approached Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson of Lexington several years ago to discuss making state symbol designations scientifically accurate. Stevenson proposed such legislation after working with Garrison, then handed it off to Rep. Gentry upon learning that he was a geologist with expertise on such issues.

Lawmakers made changes to HB 378 in recent days as it moved toward becoming law. In the bill’s final form, “it was important to retain coal in the mix due to its importance in Kentucky energy production, culture, and history,” Garrison said. “Calcite is the mineral that makes up the rock limestone, which is very abundant in Kentucky, and causes karst topography, leading to Kentucky having the world's longest cave! We didn't want to rock the boat for Kentucky agate lovers, so we moved to this one to the state gemstone.”

The new lineup of state symbols are “all scientifically accurate, and all very much Kentucky,” Gentry said in a speech to House members.

HB 378 now goes to Gov. Andy Beshear to be signed into law.