ANNAPOLIS – Will Smith knew the drill.
The Silver Spring fourth-grader, a year removed from his first testimony in support of a state exercise, returned to the Free State’s capital Wednesday, arguing once more for an official activity to benefit all Marylanders: walking.
Less traffic, a better environment, community interaction – the advantages, he said, are countless.
“Like I said last year, it’s hard to say `hi’ when you’re going 60 mph,” Smith told the House’s Health and Government Operations Committee, to lawmaker’s chuckles. “(Walking) is a symbol for what Maryland is and what Maryland can be.”
Delegate William Bronrott, D-Montgomery, reintroduced legislation this session to give Maryland its 20th state symbol, one year after his initial bill failed by one vote in committee.
It was Smith and his classmates from East Silver Spring Elementary who brought the idea to Bronrott’s attention in 2002.
America’s growing waistline and skyrocketing health costs convinced the lawmaker to take up their cause.
“This will help spark a new awareness about the rising tide of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease that is killing people needlessly,” Bronrott said. “With a deficit and rising health care costs, this General Assembly is looking for ways it can reduce costs.”
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 measure.
“I have a good feeling about (the bill), but I haven’t counted the votes,” Bronrott said.
Bronrott’s proposal was one of four state symbols shot down by legislators in 2002 by the Commerce and Governmental Matters Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Other failed attempts: 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.
Sen. Leo Green, D-Prince George’s, is sponsoring a bill this spring to make the thoroughbred racehorse another state symbol.
On Wednesday, Smith had reinforcements in the form of a contingent of Girl Scouts from Troop 4058 in Olney.
“Three years ago, I weighed 20 more pounds and was three inches shorter,” said Kelley Brady, 12, a seventh-grader from St. Peter’s School and troop member. “Walking changed my life, and today I stand before you a changed person.”
Committee lawmakers last year said they voted against a state exercise because, with 19 official symbols, Maryland has plenty. Others said the expense of reprinting state literature didn’t justify their support.
On Wednesday, some lawmakers appeared cautious for different reasons.
“The concept and the theory is important and worthwhile, but to attach it as just another state symbol, I’m not in agreement,” said Delegate Nathaniel Oaks, D-Baltimore City, who said he is undecided about his vote.
Delegate Robert Costa, R-Anne Arundel, said he wants the nonprofit organizations that back a state exercise to also help market the idea and educate Marylanders.
“Then I can see a reason for it,” Costa said. “But if it’s going to die after designation, it’s only a feel-good piece of legislation.”