ANNAPOLIS – If Delegate James Hubbard, D-Prince George’s, gets his way, a stone will join the Baltimore oriole and the black-eyed Susan as a symbol of The Free State.
Hubbard is sponsoring a bill declaring the Patuxent River agate – a semi-precious colorful pebble – as the Maryland state gem. If his legislation passes, then Maryland will become the 28th state to have a designated gem.
But Hubbard may be rolling a stone up a steep hill trying to win passage.
During the 1997 General Assembly, Sen. Paula Hollinger, D- Baltimore County, almost had enough votes to make golden topaz the state gem. After breezing through the Senate, 28-8, the bill proceeded to the House of Delegates where it failed by one vote.
Delegate Dana Dembrow, D-Montgomery, was the spoiler.
“It’s fair to say that I killed it on the House floor,” Dembrow said. “It was I who got up and explained why I didn’t like it.”
To Dembrow, who successfully introduced legislation to name the blue crab the state crustacean, having a non-native stone like the topaz become a state symbol was ridiculous.
He’s not sure how he feels about the Patuxent River agate. “I’m not going to pre-judge the bill,” he said. “The Patuxent River agate is at least indigenous to Maryland.”
Hubbard is optimistic about his stone. “I think it qualifies from a lot of standpoints,” he said. He was convinced of the worthiness of the state by a constituent, Courtland Lee, a geologist, who came up with the idea when he began cutting the stones.
The bill defines the pea-to-peach-sized stones as an “exceptionally beautiful gem, suitable for a wide variety of uses as well as geological specimens.” The stones are bright, sometimes red or swirled red, typically found in riverbeds and gravel pits along the Patuxent, according to Lee.
Lee’s got an interesting theory about the stones – that they once filled the gizzards of dinosaurs 110 million years ago.
Naming them the state gem “would call attention to the heretofore unknown natural resources in the state of Maryland.”
– 30 – CNS-1-14-00