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Md. Lawmakers Not Feeling so Southern Anymore

Friday, 19 Mar 2010 07:13 AM

 

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Maryland's official song may include a line about "Northern scum" left over from the Civil War era, but the state isn't feeling so Southern anymore.

Though Marylanders live just south of the Mason-Dixon Line, their attitudes and even their accents straddle that border. These days, leaders feel they've got more in common with states to the north.

In one sign of the shift, lawmakers successfully petitioned to move from the Southern Region of the Council of State Governments to the Eastern Region, where they'll be able to trade ideas with fellow officials from Pennsylvania, New York, and other states they consider more like-minded.

"I just don't think we're as Southern as people used to think," said state Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat.

It's unusual for states to switch regions in the 77-year-old council, which provides a forum for state officials to share ideas. The last time was when Missouri switched from the Midwestern Region to the Southern Region in 1994.

Maryland supporters of the change cite the state's proximity to the District of Columbia, which is in the Eastern Region. They share many concerns, particularly in public safety and transportation.

Maryland also belongs to the same electrical power grid as several states in the Eastern Region and shares environmental interests in preserving the Chesapeake Bay with states there, although fellow bay state Virginia is in the Southern Region.

"I think that we have common experiences that we can learn from," said state Sen. Verna Jones, D-Baltimore.

Longtime residents note a shift too. Diane Schwallenberg, who has lived in the Annapolis area all of her 53 years, said she feels more Southern because of the state capital's laid-back waterside atmosphere and small-town friendliness. But she said she has noticed a change over the years as more people have moved to the area.

"Some of the new people that come in — not the real, true Annapolitans in particular — but people that have come in are kind of preppy and all," she said.

Maryland has long felt influences from both parts of the country. During the Civil War, the state was torn between North and South.

While Maryland was officially in the Union, President Abraham Lincoln had to send troops to occupy Baltimore to keep the state in line. Recent attempts to update the state song, "Maryland, My Maryland," — which describes the occupation as "the despot's heel upon thy shore" and includes the mention of "Northern scum" — have failed.

Robert Brugger, whose wrote a history of the state titled "Maryland, A Middle Temperament," said Maryland's political interests and social makeup may link it more closely these days with Pennsylvania than Virginia. Still, he said many Maryland residents enjoy the cultural qualities that come from being a border state, and he expressed regret that some felt a change was needed.

"It is still too bad, in as much as Maryland really is North and South together," Brugger said. "It's a shame to have to choose."

But supporters of going Yankee mention Maryland's modern political differences with states in the South. In Maryland, a solid blue state, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2-1.

"The South, which we have been a part of for more than 50 years, is a fabulous region, but the politics have changed dramatically, and much of the politics are dominated by tea party activists," said Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat.

——

On the Net:

Council of State Governments: http://www.csg.org

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