ANNAPOLIS – The calico cat trumps all state felines, the blue crab is king of Maryland crustaceans and jousting is the Free State’s special sport. Now, there’s a potential state exercise: walking.
Delegate William Bronrott, D-Montgomery, reintroduced legislation this week to give Maryland another state symbol, one year after his initial attempt failed by one vote in committee.
“Walking is an exercise that is probably the most common denominator amongst Marylanders,” he said. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money joining a health club – you just have to lace up your walking shoes and hit the sidewalk.”
In his bill, Bronrott cites both national and state statistics that he says bolster the initiative.
Mortality rates from coronary artery disease in Maryland rank in the top third in the nation with more than 14,000 people dying each year, the bill says. In 1998, the state’s obesity rate topped 15 percent, it says.
Walking 30 minutes a day cuts the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a condition found in 348,000 state residents, by 58 percent, the bill says.
“It’s going to be very hard to ignore the fact that as taxpayers, we’re spending an exorbitant amount of funds on cardiovascular disease and problems that could be avoided,” Bronrott said.
For his efforts last session, the Maryland Public Health Association named Bronrott its 2002 Delegate of the Year.
The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Maryland Council on Physical Fitness, the Governor’s Office of Smart Growth and Chesapeake Bay Country Walkers also support the bill.
“We love it,” said Michaeline Fedder, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association’s Mid-Atlantic affiliate. “This sets the stage for Marylanders to be healthy in a way that doesn’t deal with any other kinds of issues other than going out and doing it.”
Third-graders from East Silver Spring Elementary School last year approached Bronrott and Sen. Ida G. Ruben, D-Montgomery, with the idea for a state exercise.
Will Smith, then a third-grader at East Silver Spring, and his classmates spoke in support of the bill to the Commerce and Governmental Matters Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Last year’s vote was disheartening, but he may be back again this year, Smith said.
“At first I was sad, but I always knew I could keep doing it,” he said. “We’re probably going to do this next year if it fails (again).”
The proposal was one of four state symbols shot down by legislators in 2002: apple-oatmeal as the state cookie, the Patuxent River agate as the state gem and a revised, less belligerent version of Maryland’s state song, “Maryland, My Maryland,” a Confederate call-to-arms.
“No more symbols,” said Delegate Elizabeth Bobo, D-Howard, who voted against Bronrott’s bill in committee last year. “There’s a state cat, a state dinosaur, a state fish – instead of picking and choosing, I’ve just stopped voting for them.”
And one lawmaker sees state symbols as a drain on legislative resources.
“I feel bad when they bring in children and everything, but the committee has a finite amount of time,” said Delegate Barry Glassman, R-Harford, who also opposes a state exercise. “If we spend it on these types of bills, it’s just not productive.”