ANNAPOLIS – Without a peep of protest, a controversial bill to make lacrosse the state team sport overwhelmingly passed the Senate Tuesday in a 35-10 vote, with two senators not voting.
The bill does not replace jousting as the state sport. It adds a category of state team sport to the long list of state symbols, a move many jousters said defeats the purpose of the state sport.
“To dilute the prestige of ring jousting as the one and only official state sport can only have a deleterious effect,” said jousting supporter Michael Betts in written committee testimony.
Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore have been primary locales for jousting, where it serves as a draw for many fundraisers in local churches and charity events.
Sen. Roy Dyson, D-St. Mary’s, voted against the measure Tuesday morning because his district is where jousting originated in Maryland.
His constituents, Dyson said, would be surprised to hear that the Legislature spent so much time on a measure that affects a state tradition so important that it is depicted on the state seal.
“I think that tradition should stay,” Dyson said.
The measure will head to the House of Delegates for passage, where the bill’s sponsor, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, hopes it will get similar support.
“So many young people can participate in lacrosse,” Miller said. “It’s a bill that needs to pass.”
Miller said he has protected jousting’s position as state sport throughout his career in the Legislature, voting against bills that would have replaced it with lacrosse or bowling.
But, he said Maryland must “move on” into the 21st century and recognize lacrosse’s popularity and impact on Marylanders.
“I think this compromise perpetuates both sports,” Miller said.
House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, agreed with Miller.
“There’s room for both jousting to be recognized and lacrosse to be recognized,” Busch said.