ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland House of Delegates Friday let the calico cat out of the bag, approving the kitty as the state’s official feline.
“The calico cat because of the colors of the state flag was the right cat,” said Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, vice chairwoman of the Commerce and Government Matters Committee, which heard the issue.
Five fifth-graders from Westernport Elementary School in Allegany County asked Delegate Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, to introduce the bill because the calico cat’s red, gold, black and white fur evoked the colors of the Maryland flag.
Through a chorus of meows and catcalls, members of the House asked a series of good-natured questions.
Several delegates and cat-lovers asked if the committee had considered the tabby, the alley cat, the exotic short hair, the chinchilla long hair and the snowshoe.
“I just wanted to make sure that all cats had the equal opportunity to be considered as the state cat,” said Delegate Adelaide Eckardt, R-Dorchester.
“The calico cat is not a breed. It’s a look,” said McIntosh, admitting a fondness for Maggie the cat brought by calico supporters to the committee’s Feb. 1 hearing on the bill.
Other delegates took the opportunity to have a little more fun with the bill.
“If this passed . . . would that make the House of Delegates into a cat house?” joked Delegate Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery.
McIntosh quipped back: “No, but we can probably legalize catnip next year. For medical purposes.”
When asked if the committee would consider flying the state cat from the top of the State House, McIntosh said with a straight face: “We actually discussed that in Commerce and Government Matters . . . You’d have to hire someone to take the cat up and down . . . or provide lights.”
Kelly is optimistic the bill, which passed in the House, 116-12, will pass in the Senate, too.
He credits Speaker Casper Taylor, D-Allegany, for the bill’s House reception. Constituents from his district are giving the bill a “very positive warm response,” including a sign on the outskirts of Westernport, he said.
Students from Westernport and its sister school, Beach Elementary in Calvert County, are already planning their presentation for the bill’s Senate committee hearing, Kelly said.
“They have become quite the lobbyists,” he said.
The Secretary of State’s Web site for kids has an online poll for calico supporters to register their support; 99 percent of those voting approve so far.
This session the General Assembly is also considering adding the following to the state emblem list: the Patuxent River agate as state gem, the raven as the second state bird, and the pinxterbloom azalea as state shrub.