ANNAPOLIS — When it came to a proposed sing-along on the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Ron Young’s response was the sound of silence.
The chamber had its first look Tuesday morning at a bill — supported by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee — to update Maryland’s state song. The amended bill, sponsored by Young, D-District 3, would change the song to remove certain verses and add a verse by Middletown-born John T. White.
The committee’s amended version of the bill would also designate the current nine-verse song, which was written by James Ryder Randall, as the state’s “historical” song.
“It’s just a very negative, detrimental song,” Young said Tuesday. “It was a battle song for the South during the Civil War.”
Sen. Joanne C. Benson, D-Prince George’s County, had a question for Young during Tuesday’s floor session: “How possible is it for you to try to sing that for us?” Harkening back to the bygone days when senators would pound canes on the old chamber floor, members thumped their desks.
But Young would not put on a show. “I think the Senate would very much appreciate it if I sang, because they would all leave and get out of here early,” he said.
Earlier this session, yet another possible version of the song — written by a Baltimore man, to insert a reference to Harriet Tubman — led to singing in a House committee. Delegate Karen Lewis Young, D-District 3, presented a similar bill to her husband’s during that hearing, but the House committee hasn’t acted on any of the song bills.
The Senate committee’s amended bill includes a preamble outlining the need to change the song. “The historic state song represents a bygone era when our state was divided in the midst of the Civil War and expresses emotions that were characteristic of that most divided period in this country’s history,” the preamble states.
“As many in this state make increased efforts to find common ground and work together harmoniously in a nonpartisan manner, this state needs a song that unites us moving forward and carries a theme that will endure over time,” the preamble continues.
The bill also picked up two other sponsors: Senators Delores G. Kelley, D-Baltimore County, and Cheryl C. Kagan, D-Montgomery, whose bill to create a state song selection panel was viewed unfavorably by the committee.
Discussion on Young’s bill was continued until Wednesday after Sen. Robert G. Cassilly, R-Harford, requested that it be “laid over,” a procedure which allows amended bills to be postponed for one day, so members can do more research.
Cassilly said he hadn’t read the bill yet and wanted to take a close look at it.
“I tread very lightly, I’m very thoughtful, when it comes to changing our state history,” Cassilly said.
“I just can’t go along with a song I haven’t heard sung yet,” he said with a wink outside the Senate chamber.