Election produces little change in state legislature compared to rest of nation

November 05, 2010 at 2:52 pm

By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

Tuesday’s election did not alter the Maryland General Assembly in a major way, though Republicans did pick up six seats in the House of Delegates and they lost two in the Senate.

House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller, the Democratic presiding officers, said they expected little change in their chambers or their leadership teams, including committee chairs.

“I think the dynamic is very much the same,” Busch told MarylandReporter.com. “We will come back with the leadership team basically intact.”

Miller saw “very slight impact” from the election results, though he did have few positions to fill.

Both Busch and Miller also expected to see no tax increases next year to balance the budget with a projected deficit – a position affirmed this week by Gov. Martin O’Malley after his re-election. (See separate story.)
Much different from results across U.S.

Maryland’s results are in stark contrast to many other states, where at least 21 legislative chambers switched from being majority Democrats to majority Republicans, according to Ballotpedia.

Miller, a long-time leader in national organizations for state lawmakers, said Maryland was “unbelievably atypical” in its stability. Miller, the longest serving Senate president in the nation, was getting phone calls from around the country where Democratic leaders lost their majorities.

The turnover in the Maryland House and Senate was even below average for Maryland.

CORRECTED: In January, there will be 30 new members of the House of Delegates – 14 Democrats and 16 Republicans – and 10 nine new senators – 3 2 Republicans and 7 Democrats. The last 10 elections have produced an average of 45 new delegates and 12 new senators, according to figures compiled by the Department of Legislative Services. (See PDF at bottom.)

The six Republican delegates taking over seats held by Democrats will bring the GOP up to 43 House members compared to 98 Democrats, the same breakdown the parties had before the 2006 election.

“It’s a bright spot in the Maryland election for Republicans,” said House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell, R-Calvert. “Not only will it add depth to our caucus, but quality and experience.”

“It will also add one additional vote to each of the six standing committees,” O’Donnell. That can be important in the committees where the heavy lifting on legislation is usually done.

“To be elected to the legislature in Maryland as a Republican you have to be a pretty sharp cookie, and we’ve got lots of sharp cookies.”

GOP “dirty dozen”

Senate GOP Leader Allan Kittleman was resigned late Thursday to the losses after a day counting absentee ballots in close races produced little change in the results. He will now lead 12 instead of 14 Republicans out of 47 senators, what he jokingly called “the dirty dozen.”

“It doesn’t make it easy,” Kittleman said, but “it really doesn’t change too much.”

There was big talk by ex-Gov. Bob Ehrlich and other Republicans of adding five GOP senators to give Republicans 19 seats and enough clout to maintain a filibuster and sustain a veto. But “getting to five,” as Ehrlich called it, was more a slogan than a strategy, and the GOP had little money to support the effort.

“Money makes a difference in Maryland,” Kittleman said. He said Miller and other Democratic senators plowed hundreds of thousands of dollars into defeating arch-conservative Sen. Alex Mooney in Frederick County – a man Miller had targeted before – helping to elect former Frederick Mayor Ron Young. The money also boosted Democratic Del. Jim Mathias over hotel executive Michael James to the Lower Eastern Shore seat of retiring Sen. Lowell Stoltzfus, a former Senate minority leader.

Miller “basically just paid for those seats,” Kittleman said.

Any changes?

Most people presume that Miller and Busch will be reelected as presiding officers, a process that happens every year at the beginning of the General Assembly session.

For Miller, 68, this will make his 41st year in the legislature and his 25th year as Senate president. Busch, 63, has been in the legislature 24 years and speaker for eight. If Busch serves two more years as speaker, he will be the longest serving speaker in Maryland history – joining Miller in the state history books.

Miller and Busch have extraordinary powers of appointment, allowing them to move even members of the opposition party into what committees they want.

Busch expects little change. Most of his “team” will be returning, though there a few positions to fill, such as chair of the Democratic caucus.

Miller has bit more shifting to do. The chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee – a committee that holds power shared by two committees in the House – is now Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, D-Howard-Balto. , who had been both vice-chair and majority leader. He’s replacing Sen. Ulysses Currie, currently under federal indictment for accepting bribes.

Sen. Rob Garagiola of Montgomery County will become majority leader, Miller said, and he may appoint Sen. Catherine Pugh of Baltimore City as deputy majority leader. Pugh is considering a run for mayor of Baltimore.

Miller does not see a shift leftward in the Senate, even though three of the seven new members of the Senate were endorsed by liberal Progressive Maryland. He’s not unhappy with the new Republicans, either: Dels. J.B. Jennings and Chris Shank, and former Del. Joe Getty, a policy advisor to Ehrlich and recently the GOP Senate caucus.

“I like them both,” said of Jennings and Getty, and “I don’t even think Chris Shank will be a problem.” Shank was minority whip in the house and defeated one of the Democrats favorite Republicans, Sen. Don Munson of Washington County.

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