ANNAPOLIS -- The state dinosaur came close to extinction in the Senate yesterday.
But, luckily for the Astrodon johnstoni, it has a tough hide and survived a move to table a bill to give the herbivore official state status.
Astrodon's fossil remains are peculiar to Maryland, and peculiar was one of the more polite terms critics used to describe the Astrodon bill, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Dorman, D-Prince George's.
Sen. James C. Simpson, D-Charles, said passing legislation on frivolous matters during difficult economic times could mean "we're all going to be dinosaurs come 1994," the next election year for the General Assembly.
Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore, said he always thought Astrodon johnstoni was a painter.
But Astrodon had an unbowed-if-candid defender in Sen. Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore, who as chairman of the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee brought the bill to the Senate floor.
"This is really not a frivolous bill, nor is it the greatest bill in the world," Mr. Blount said. "Who cares whether we have a state dinosaur? It's not the biggest issue in the world."
Actually, Astrodon was a pretty big issue -- 50 to 60 feet long, in fact. The mammoth beast roamed Maryland 130 million years ago, and its fossil remains have been unearthed along the U.S. 1 corridor since the mid-1800s.
NB Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, led the charge to
keep the Astrodon buried.
"We get criticized for a lot of things. I don't think this bill should be on the floor," Mr. Bromwell said. He moved to postpone action indefinitely, which would kill the bill without forcing the issue itself to a vote.
But his colleagues disagreed, voting 29-15 to keep Astrodon alive, giving the bill preliminary approval. It will probably come up for a final vote next week.
After the Senate recessed, Sen. Frederick C. Malkus Jr., D-Dorchester, wound up with the last word on the state dinosaur. "Someone asked me if it should be me or [Comptroller Louis L.] Goldstein," said the 78-year-old senator, who began his legislative career in 1951. "Well, I say it's got to be Louis, because he's got two years more than me." Mr. Malkus was referring to Mr. Goldstein's time in state government, not his age, which also is 78. Mr. Goldstein is 4 months older than Mr. Malkus.