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Harris Jones & Malone: Spotlight on Delegate Marvin E. Holmes, Jr.

Delegate Marvin E. Holmes, Jr., Member of the House Environment and Transportation Committee (Photo: meholmes.com)

With the flurry of activity that will take place in the Maryland General Assembly over the coming days, it is easy to forget the role of patience and compromise in the legislative process. Often, legislation introduced for the first time does not have the support to pass both chambers of the General Assembly. Additionally, some legislation requires compromise which ultimately halts the process until key issues are resolved. As a thirteen-year veteran in the General Assembly, Delegate Marvin Holmes (D – 23B, Prince George’s County) understands just how important patience and compromise will be as Sine Die approaches. In an interview with Delegate Holmes, I was able to learn about his background, legislative accomplishments, and how he plans to spend the last weeks of the 2016 legislative session.

Delegate Holmes followed a unique path to becoming one of the most highly regarded legislators in the state the Maryland. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, his parents instilled in him a hard work ethic and a sense of civic duty from an early age.  Delegate Holmes very much embodied the blue collar mentality that has historically defined the city of Cleveland and initially had dreams of learning a trade rather than attending a four-year college or university. While attending Max S. Hayes Vocational School, Delegate Holmes studied tool and die, a trade often used in the manufacturing industry. Upon completion of high school, Delegate Holmes received an apprenticeship to work for Ford Motor Company. However, two weeks into the job, workers at the the Ford Motor company went on an extended strike and Delegate Holmes was forced to look for new work.  He recalls the situation stating, “I got home and my dad asked me what my next steps were going to be and my mom piped up ‘He’s taking his butt to college!’.” In hopes of appeasing his mother, Delegate Holmes applied to one college, Tuskegee University. Delegate Holmes went on to earn his engineering degree from Tuskegee and serve as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue team before finally making his way to Maryland.

Before coming to Maryland, Delegate Holmes was very active in his community and in Ohio State politics. In 1968, he volunteered to assist Carl Stokes in his bid for Mayor of Cleveland. Ultimately, with the help of Delegate Holmes and a host of other supporters, Carl Stokes became the first elected African American mayor of a major U.S. city. Delegate Holmes also worked on the campaign of Louis Stokes, Mayor Carl Stokes’ brother and eventual Congressmen representing Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives for thirty years. Even today, Delegate Holmes continues to credit these early experiences volunteering on political campaigns with his parents as the driving force for his love of government, community organizing, and politics.

Building off his experiences in Cleveland, Delegate Holmes was able to quickly immerse himself into a life of public service in Maryland. Delegate Holmes served as the President of the Citizens for Greenbelt, President of the Kettering Civic Federation, and Vice President of the Bowie Democratic club. After serving in various leadership positions, Delegate Holmes pondered the possibility of serving the citizens of Maryland in elected office. Since he would have to quit his job as an engineer to run for county council, Delegate Holmes decided to run the House of Delegates. Following an unsuccessful bid in 1998, he ran again in 2002 and was elected to the House of Delegates in 2003. At the time of Delegate Holmes’ election, he became the first African American to serve District 23B in the history of the State and he remains the only minority to represent the District.

Since entering the House of Delegates in 2003, Delegate Holmes has developed a great appreciation for the legislative process and a profound respect for how laws are created. Speaking of the process, he says, “A lot of people get frustrated because it seems to take longer than they want it to take. Going through the intended process of creating laws and going through the vetting process of creating laws is absolutely necessary so that we don’t have too many unintended consequences of the laws we create. Nor do we have laws that are frivolous and don’t really go to the intent of the issue or the problem.” Delegate Holmes has also learned to combine his professional experiences with his political expertise. Outside of the legislature, in addition to his work as an engineer, Delegate Holmes works as a property manager and a real estate agent. With a background in real estate, Delegate Holmes was appointed as Chairman of the Housing and Real Property Subcommittee. While serving as Chair of this critical subcommittee, Delegate Holmes’ has displayed his diverse background and become a well respected member of the Environment & Transportation Committee. Over the years, Delegate Holmes has introduced a host of bills benefitting the citizens of Maryland.

During Delegate Holmes’ tenure in the House, he has introduced legislation stemming from his personal interactions with Maryland citizens and aimed at protecting Maryland’s most senior population. In 2006, Delegate Holmes sponsored a bill prohibiting an insurer from cancelling, refusing to underwrite a risk, or increasing a premium on a homeowner’s insurance coverage for making a simple inquiry concerning their policy.  He introduced this legislation after a woman in his church inquired into her homeowner’s insurance coverage following her purchase of a new home leading to termination of her coverage. For Delegate Holmes, patience would prove vital as he spent at least three legislative sessions advocating for the legislation’s passage. After spending various sessions defining what constitutes an “inquiry”, Delegate Holmes was able to pull the General Assembly together to compromise on a successful bill. In 2006, he also introduced legislation authorizing counties and municipalities to grant property tax credits to individuals of limited income and over the age of seventy. Without the leadership of Delegate Holmes and his expertise in the area of real property, many senior citizens across the state might have been forced into inadequate housing situations.

While Delegate Holmes’ legislative accomplishments are impressive, they did not result without hard work from both chambers. As the 2016 session of the Maryland General assembly enters its last few weeks, Delegate Holmes’ focus has changed. Since Crossover Day, the day by which bills must pass out of at least one chamber of the General Assembly to have the best opportunity of becoming law, he has been concentrating on making sure the General Assembly places the best version of each piece of legislation on the Governor’s desk. “My primary focus is on the differences between the Senate and House bill, how to make sure that a conference committee will put them together, and figuring out which of those two bills should be presented to the Governor, Senate or House.” In this final week, Delegate Holmes will be busy meeting with members of both parties and working to come to agreement on bills that may conflict. The process will be time consuming for all of the parties involved but with his proven patience and willingness to work effectively with colleagues, Delegate Holmes would have it no other way.

By:  Kenneth N. Harris, Jr.

 

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