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Maryland General Assembly Reconvenes in New Year

After a lengthy campaign season and a hard-fought election, the Maryland General Assembly will ring in the New Year with a host of new delegates and senators on January 14. The beginning of a new session in Annapolis means the potential for change throughout Maryland in the coming year. Only time will tell just what those changes will be. Read on to discover what the General Assembly will look like in 2015 and how the new members’ decisions could affect Marylanders like you.

Maryland-General-Assembly January 14 Marks the Beginning of General Assembly Session

 On January 14, 2015 the Maryland General Assembly will celebrate the Opening Day of its 435th  Legislative Session and swear in its newest members, starting off what many hope will be a productive and cooperative session.  The 2014 Gubernatorial election brought significant changes to both houses of the General Assembly, with 12 new members in the Senate and a whopping 58 new members in the House of Delegates!  These new members fill vacancies left by members who retired, ran for alternative positions, will fill roles in the new administration, or who ran and lost their seats. The 2015 freshman class represents the most significant turnover in the General Assembly in decades and that means major changes to the committee makeup and legislative leadership.

In the Senate, the longstanding Chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, Brian Frosh gave up his seat to embark on a successful run for Attorney General.  Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. opted for the much more moderate Baltimore County Democrat Bobby Zirkin to replace him as the new Chair, which will be a dramatic change in the leadership of that committee and the Senate in general.  Frosh’s vacancy and Zirkin’s move into the top role on JPR left a dearth of leadership positions for members from Montgomery County, spurring Miller to scramble the lineup a bit. He selected Montgomery County representative and budget guru, Rich Madaleno Vice Chair of the powerful Budget and Taxation Committee and gave Jamie Raskin the top spots on the Executive Nominations Committee (a committee of particular importance with a new, Republican cabinet to confirm) and the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.  After 20 years in the Senate, Roy Dyson, former Vice-Chair of the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, lost his seat to Steve Waugh, leaving room for Prince George’s County’s Paul Pinsky to move up into the secondary role on that committee.  Finally, Baltimore City’s Catherine Pugh moves from Deputy Majority Leader to Majority Leader, leaving the Deputy position open for Miller favorite Kathy Klausmeier of Baltimore County.

Now, while the shake ups in the Senate are significant, they are nothing compared to Rubix cube that is the House of Delegates.  With new members in more than 40% of the House, Speaker Mike Busch and his staff were left with the daunting task of herding an almost unprecedented freshman class into committees and restoring some unexpected gaps in House leadership.  After 28 years in the House and over decade as Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Norm Conway was upset by Carl Anderton, leaving a hole at the top of the House’s highly technical budget committee.  Rather than promote from within the committee, Busch opted to move Baltimore’s Maggie McIntosh from Chair of the former Environmental Matters Committee over as Chair of Appropriations, a move seen as many as a the first steps toward grooming her as the next Speaker.  Meanwhile Environmental Matters gained some new subject matter, a new chair and a new name – now the Environment and Transportation Committee, it will be headed up by longtime Majority Leader Kumar Barve, giving him his first crack at heading up a true policy committee.  Barve’s shift to committee Chair left the Majority Leader position open for up and coming Montgomery County representative Anne Kaiser.  Dana Stein moved into the Vice Chair position on Environment and Transportation after Jimmy Malone’s retirement, and David Rudolph’s loss left the second spot in Economic Matters open for Sally Jameson. All this plus a complicated new matrix of subcommittees, each with their own new hierarchy!

In addition to the changes in leadership, all six House Committee’s underwent significant changes due to the massive new class and various swapping of positions by incumbents.  The highly coveted Economic Matters and Ways and Means Committees will be almost unrecognizable with 14 new members each, and the Appropriations Committee has 15 new budget-makers on its roster.  Health and Government Operations and Judiciary both have 11 new members – with only 1 non-freshman in the group, and the freshly minted Environment and Transportation has the least amount of turnover with 8 new members, although a new Chair and Vice Chair will certainly up the ante for its transition.

In addition to 70 new members, the 2014 election brought a surge in Republicanism the State House.  Governor-elect Larry Hogan, stunned many with his upset victory over Anthony Brown in November, and brought with him a wave a new Republicans to the General Assembly.  Both the Senate and the House saw increases in their Republican Membership with the G.O.P. picking up two seats in the 47 member Senate, and seven formally Democrat-occupied seats in the 141 member House.  Despite these ostensible turns towards the right, both Senate and House maintained their Democratic majorities, with a 91-50 and 33-14 make-up, respectively.

The General Assembly’s work only just begins on January 14; it will face busy months leading up to the adjournment in mid-April. January 23 marks the final date for soon-to-be Governor Hogan to introduce a budget bill, and February 2 is the final date for him to introduce the capital budget bill. The House and Senate will then have to approve the budget by April 6 in addition to passing whatever legislation takes precedence this year.

 Harris Jones & Malone

To stay up-to-date with the latest news from Annapolis lawmakers and policies in Maryland, check back with Harris Jones & Malone. Our lobbying and government relations services are carried out by a team of expert attorneys who have experience in criminal, litigation, procurement, government contracting, and labor law practice. Call us today for more information 410-366-1500 and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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