ANNAPOLIS – Some of the state’s youngest residents stood confidently in front of a Senate committee Thursday to speak on behalf of one of Maryland’s oldest residents.
Really old. And really tall.
The elementary school students’ dream of naming a state dinosaur came a step closer to reality Thursday when the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill to make Astrodon Johnstoni the official state dinosaur.
“The black-eyed susan, the oriole and the blue crab need a prehistoric companion,” Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, D-Baltimore, told the committee.
McFadden said he sponsored the dinosaur bill at the request of elementary school children around the state.
Ten of those children, in T-shirts that sported pictures of the 60-foot-long, 10-ton sauropod, testified to the committee, backed by paleontologist Peter Kranz.
Astrodon Johnstoni was a type of brachiosaur that resembled a cross between an elephant and a giraffe, said Kranz. He called it a prime candidate for state dinosaur because it was among the first dinosaur bones discovered in North America and because more Astrodon Johnstoni fossils have been found in Maryland than anywhere in the world.
Supporters of the bill said designating Astrodon Johnstoni as the state dinosaur would help educate children about prehistoric life in Maryland.
“This bill is very important to us and all the children in our school,” said Elaine Mui, a fifth-grade student at Flintstone Elementary School in Oxon Hill.
No one spoke in opposition to the dinosaur bill Thursday, but a previous attempt to make Astrodon Johnstoni the state dinosaur in 1993 failed on the House floor by two votes.
Mui and her companions are working to avoid what happened the last time. They went door to door Thursday to lobby lawmakers and ask for their support.
“People are saying that this is a frivolous bill,” Mui told the committee. “It’s not. If you think education is frivolous, well, that’s the problem, isn’t it?”
It took 110 million years for Astrodon Johnstoni to make its way from the primordial swamps of prehistoric Maryland to the State House. The committee wasted little time Thursday, voting immediately after the students’ appeal to pass the dinosaur bill on to the full Senate.
“This is a bill whose time has come,” McFadden said.
The House has already passed another state symbol bill, to make milk the official state drink. The Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear that bill March 26.