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Best Week, Worst Week: 10-year-old takes on General Assembly; Trump deals blow to Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts

bestworst-031817A 10-year-old boy armed with legislative backing and coaching from a lobbyist testified on a bill to designate a state mineral while President Donald Trump’s budget released this week delivered a big blow to restoration efforts for the Chesapeake Bay.

Government affairs writer Bryan P. Sears on Monday brought us the story of David Shore, a 10-year-old from Bethesda who testified in front of the General Assembly to designate chromite as the state mineral of Maryland.

This was not the first time before a committee in Annapolis for David, but this time, he was taking no chances: He brought a lobbyist. Telling the Assembly that 26 other states have a state mineral, Maryland should join the club as well. Though officials with the state Department of Natural Resources didn’t take an official position on the bill, State Geologist Richar Ortt Jr. testified alongside David, confirming the boy’s accounts of the importance of the mineral to the state.

Chromite’s connections to Maryland run deep. The mineral was first discovered in the United States in 1808 by Isaac Tyson Jr. in the Bare Hills area of Baltimore County. It was later found in other areas of the county as well as Carroll, Cecil, Harford, Howard and Montgomery counties.

There are 23 officially recognized state symbols, from the official state song (“Maryland, My Maryland,” ) to official state dogs and cats (the Chesapeake Bay Retriever and the Calico), and even an official state butterfly, cake and dinosaur.

Legislators praised David for an informed testimony, but he’s got an uphill battle if he wants to see chromite as the state’s official mineral. The legislature does not pass bills on official designations easily and many times proposals meet with some snickering and derision from lawmakers. Efforts to make the Canvasback Duck the state waterfowl failed last year and is back again this year.

A multi-year effort to designate the soft shell crab sandwich the official state sandwich also failed — some would say because sponsors never brought samples to the committee.

Competing for attention this year with chromite and the Canvasback Duck is an effort to designate the National Day of the Cowboy. Supporters of that effort brought along a yodeling cowboy.

And while the General Assembly was debating the merits of Chromite, other natural resources in Maryland took a beating in Trump’s budget.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Trump’s budget proposal would eliminate federal funding for the program that coordinates Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts and environmental groups warned the cut would threaten decades of progress.

The program, formed in 1983, received $73 million in federal funds last year, most of which was doled out in grants to states, local governments and community groups for cleanup efforts in the nation’s largest estuary. It also coordinates and monitors the efforts of the six Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia in meeting pollution reduction goals.

Supporters of the program demonized the cuts as a mechanism that would revert the Bay to a “national disgrace” with poor water quality, unhealthy fish and shellfish and waterborne diseases that threaten  human health.

They also pointed out that the Chesapeake Bay watershed is an economic driver that supports fishing, farming, shipping and tourism that spans 64,000 square miles in parts of Maryland, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia

Congress will have the final say on the budget, and the Chesapeake Bay Program has support from lawmakers in both parties. A bipartisan group of 17 members of bay states’ congressional delegations sent a letter to Trump last month asking him to keep program funding at the same $73 million level.

Environmental groups including the Choose Clean Water Coalition, which has more than 200 members across the bay states, vowed to lobby lawmakers to restore funding for the program.