- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2005

When a teacher told Ricky Impallaria and his fifth-grade classmates that Maryland law prohibits someone from bringing reindeer into the state, the son of a Maryland legislator — suddenly worried about Christmas — figured it was time to lobby Annapolis.

“I said, ‘Well, how can Santa come if reindeers aren’t allowed in Maryland?’” said Ricky, 10, the son of state Delegate Richard K. Impallaria, a Baltimore County and Harford Republican. “I went home and talked to Dad and he said he’d talk to Governor Ehrlich about it, and he did.”

The lobbying worked.

Yesterday, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. issued a proclamation declaring Santa and his team welcome in Maryland on Dec. 24.

“All flying reindeer, including one with a red nose that glows, are permitted to enter the state of Maryland’s airspace during the very late hours of Dec. 24,” Mr. Ehrlich said.

The proclamation pre-empts a law that state wildlife officials said is necessary to protect the deer population in Maryland from chronic wasting disease, similar to mad cow disease.

The prohibition against bringing live, hooved mammals into or out of the state was passed in 2003 and is punishable by a $125 fine — meaning Santa would have had to cough up some cash if the authorities caught him crossing state lines with Dasher, Prancer, Blitzen and their buddies.

“We do look like Scrooge, but it is a necessary outcome,” said Karina Blizzard, associate director for the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service.

The regulations are so stringent that a farm in Whiteford, Md., keeps its Alaskan reindeer used in Christmas activities just across the state line in Pennsylvania.

Maryland State Police said they would have given Santa a break — even without the governor’s proclamation.

“I can assure you that the Maryland State Police will not be wearing Grinch green and writing Santa a ticket for having his reindeer,” Sgt. Rob Moroney said.

Ricky found out about the law from his teacher at Youth’s Benefit Elementary School in Fallston. He shared the news with his lawmaker father during a discussion on the existence of jolly old St. Nick.

“He [Ricky] blindsided me with this, ‘Well, even if Santa Claus was real, he can’t come because it’s against the law to bring reindeer into the state of Maryland,’” Mr. Impallaria said.

“And I knew he was right.”

The state’s extension of an official welcome to Santa and his reindeer transcended party lines: House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, said the reindeer should be permitted to enter Maryland so he can have a peaceful household on Christmas.

“I hope Santa Clause makes his visit as scheduled,” Mr. Busch said. “I have two little girls, both enthusiastically waiting for Santa with milk and cookies and ready for him to arrive with his sled and full team of reindeer.”

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