Panel votes to give square dance a whirl

April 10, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- A House of Delegates committee do-si-doed into the high-pressure world of convention politics yesterday, endorsing legislation that would make the square dance Maryland's official folk dance.

In doing so, the Appropriations Committee was responding to a letter from the Washington Area Square Dancers Cooperative Association urging the panel to reverse its earlier rejection of the bill.

The association said it had hoped to bid for a future national square-dance convention at this year's gathering in Portland, Ore., but that the committee's initial action had rendered that effort "useless."

"The conventions have been going to the other 18 states" that have passed such legislation, the association said.

Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, asked the committee to rethink its position, "to keep alive our chances of hosting the square-dance convention and bringing considerable numbers of people to the state."

Panel members suddenly could envision about 25,000 calico-clad dancers swinging their partners left and right in the friendly confines of some local facility, possibly the Baltimore Convention Center, spending tourist dollars every nimble step of the way.

But Robert L. Flanagan, a Howard County Republican, worried about placing the state's imprimatur on square dancing without being assured of the convention business.

He proposed making the state folk dance designation contingent on getting the convention within the next three or four years.

"If we're going to be bought, I think we ought to to be sure we're going to get what we prostituted ourselves to do," he said.

As an alternative, he and Peter Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat, suggested imposing a so-called sunset provision by which the title would lapse after a certain number of years.

"We may have a national polka festival," said Mr. Flanagan, smelling new convention possibilities.

Mr. Franchot quelled the good-humored banter by calling the measure "a thin, speculative reason to pass legislation. . . . Any group can send us a letter like this."

The chairman, Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, returned perspective to the discussion by reminding his charges that they already had agreed to make the diamond terrapin the official state mascot.

The committee brushed aside Mr. Flanagan's and Mr. Franchot's concerns.

The bill, OK'd by the Senate, now goes to the full House for action.

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