- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Nothing says Maryland more than a blue crab or Baltimore oriole — but how about walking across a field of soybeans before enjoying a layered cake?

Maryland lawmakers heard testimony yesterday on several proposals to add new official symbols to the 22 already recognized. The proposals to name walking the state exercise, soybeans the state crop and Smith Island cake the state dessert seem innocuous — but supporters have to overcome lawmakers’ reluctance to take up measures seen as trifling.

Just ask Will Smith, a student at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring who was in elementary school when his class first proposed walking as the state exercise. Lawmakers approved the plan in 2003, but Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoed the measure and called it “silly.”

Will and his classmates were crushed.

“I walk almost everywhere. I stay fit,” Will told a House panel yesterday as he pushed for lawmakers to approve the designation.

The walking bill’s sponsor, Delegate William A. Bronrott, urged his colleagues to take the measure seriously.

“This is about preventable cardiovascular disease,” said Mr. Bronrott, Montgomery Democrat. “It’s not a silly bill.”

Walking supporters weren’t the only ones looking to be taken seriously.

Lawmakers also heard from a cake baker on Smith Island who argued for the island’s hallmark multilayered cake to be named the state dessert; a pair of American Indians seeking a state holiday in honor of their heritage; a panel of fifth-grade girls seeking state recognition of soybeans — which have “many different uses,” as one pupil explained; and from parents seeking a state awareness month for Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a rare birth defect.

Sponsors of the measures asked the panel to take seriously the importance of state designations.

“Give us more time to celebrate,” said Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., Baltimore County Democrat and sponsor of a measure to expand recognition of black history to two months, January and February. Mr. Burns argued that state designations don’t cost anything and wouldn’t harm anyone who doesn’t recognize the designations.

“No one is required to celebrate it,” he said of Black History Month.

Maryland has 22 official symbols, from obvious ones such as blue crabs and Chesapeake Bay retrievers to oddities such as a state fossil and jousting, the official sport.

Supporters include Gov. Martin O’Malley, who sent an aide to testify in favor of naming the day after Thanksgiving, already a state holiday, in honor of American Indians.

“It’s just begging for a name,” deputy legislative director Sean Malone said of the day after Thanksgiving.

The designations can bring attention to a little-understood disease or attract attention to a Maryland product. The cake baker, Mary Ada Marshall of Smith Island, said news reports of the pending cake bill have drummed up business.

“Just since it’s been in the paper, we’ve gotten a lot of orders,” said Miss Marshall, who has shipped cakes to Texas and Kentucky in recent weeks.

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