By Len Lazarick
House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch announced major changes in the House leadership Tuesday that presumes he and many of his Democratic appointees will be re-elected against Republican opponents and he himself will be re-elected speaker to an unprecedented fifth term.
Unlike Congress where leadership positions are chosen by party caucuses, in the Maryland legislature, the speaker and Senate president control all leadership appointments and committee assignments.
The most dramatic change is the generational shift in the House Judiciary Committee where Del. Luke Clippinger, 45, of Baltimore City becomes chairman and Del. Vanessa Atterbeary of Howard County, 43, becomes vice-chair, the only first-term legislator to hold such a key role in a major standing committee.
Judiciary had been chaired for 25 years by Del. Joseph Vallario of Prince George’s County, 81, who lost his primary. Vallario, a conservative criminal defense attorney, was often a roadblock to major changes in civil and criminal law.
Del. Kathleen Dumais of Montgomery County, 60, the current vice-chair of Judiciary, will become majority leader, the fourth Montgomery delegate in a row to hold that position. The county is Maryland’s largest and has the largest delegation at the State House. Current Majority Leader Bill Frick lost a bid to become Montgomery County executive.
The key roles in the legislature are all held by Democrats but the presiding officers try to balance the positions by geography, race and gender. Montgomery County delegates already chair two standing committees, Ways and Means, and Environment and Transportation.
Del. Eric Bromwell of Baltimore County, 42, currently vice-chair of Health and Government Operations, will become vice-chair of Economic Matters. The new vice-chair of HGO will be Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk of Prince George’s County, 52, who had managed key changes in health insurance on the committee.
Full text of speaker’s announcement
Here is the full text of Speaker Busch’s announcement, including his comments about the major appointments and other appointments to subcommittees and leadership roles:
House Speaker Michael E. Busch today announced changes to leadership positions that will take effect in January 2019.
Speaker Busch announced today that Delegate Kathleen Dumais (Montgomery County, District 15) will be the Majority Leader. Stepping in to the third most-powerful position in the Maryland House of Delegates, Delegate Dumais will be responsible for leading the floor for the Democratic Caucus, mentoring younger members of the House, as well as developing political and policy strategy for House leadership.
“There was no better choice for House Majority Leader than Kathleen leading us in to the next term,” said Speaker Busch. “Kathleen has proven herself to be a consensus builder and is one of the hardest working members in the House of Delegates – often working from dawn until dusk. I am confident she will bring energy and focus to the Majority Leader position.”
Delegate Dumais has been a member of the House of Delegates since 2003.
Speaker Busch also named Delegate Luke Clippinger (Baltimore City, D46) as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Delegate Clippinger has been a member of the House of Delegates since 2010 and served on the House Judiciary Committee his first term.
“This is the first change for leadership in the House Judiciary Committee in 25 years and Luke is the right person for the job,” said Speaker Busch. “Criminal justice policy is evolving more rapidly every year and I am pleased to name an experienced practitioner to lead this committee for the next term. Luke has proven himself time and again as having the ability to work with people from all backgrounds and bring a common sense, forward-thinking approach to policy issues.”
Speaker Busch announced several other senior leadership positions in the House today, including:
Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary (Howard County, D13) will become the Vice Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Delegate Atterbeary has served on the House Judiciary Committee since 2015 and has chaired the Family Law Subcommittee since 2017. “Vanessa has fought tirelessly for victims of domestic abuse and child abuse,” said Speaker Busch. “Her ability to successfully advocate for Maryland’s most vulnerable and solve complex legal issues make her an ideal choice for the Vice Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.”
Delegate Eric Bromwell (Baltimore County, D8) will become the Vice Chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee. Having served in the House of Delegates since 2003, Delegate Bromwell currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the Health and Government Operations Committee. “Eric Bromwell has a wealth of private sector experience and understands the complexity of issues facing small business in Maryland,” said Speaker Busch. “His focus on improving the State’s business climate to benefit both Maryland’s workers and small businesses will serve him well as the Vice Chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee.”
Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk (Prince George’s & Anne Arundel Counties, D21) will become the Vice Chairman of the House Health and Government Operations Committee. “Joseline has proven herself time and again as a dedicated, hard-working member of the House, and is a rising star in leadership,” said Speaker Busch. “I have complete confidence in Joseline to help navigate the healthcare challenges moving forward to keep Marylanders with access to quality affordable health insurance.” Delegate Pena-Melnyk has served in the House and on the Health & Government Operations Committee since 2007, and as the Public Health & Minority Health Disparities Subcommittee chair since 2015.
Delegate Kris Valderrama (Prince George’s County, D26) will become the Deputy Speaker Pro Tem. Having served in the House of Delegates since 2007, Delegate Valderrama currently serves on the Economic Matters Committee and chairs the Workers’ Compensation Subcommittee. Delegate Valderrama also serves as the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Workers’ Compensation Benefit and Insurance Oversight. “Kris has consistently taken on additional responsibilities as a legislator in Annapolis, fighting for economic justice and working hard to ensure that Maryland women receive equal pay for equal work,” said Speaker Busch.
Delegate Keith Haynes (Baltimore City, D44A) will become the Deputy Majority Leader. Delegate Haynes has been in the House since 2003 and chairs the Appropriations Committee Public Safety and Administration Subcommittee. “Keith is a veteran of the House and brings a wealth of legal expertise to the deliberations of the Maryland House of Delegates,” said Speaker Busch.
Delegate Eric Luedtke (Montgomery County, D14) will become the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Delegate Luedtke has been a member of the House since 2011. “Delegate Luedtke has been a leading voice for progressive issues during his tenure in the House,” said Speaker Busch. “He has also shown a willingness to help members in every county in Maryland try to get elected. He will continue to bring our Democratic members together for the good of the State.”
Delegate Jazz Lewis (Prince George’s County, D24) will become the Vice Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “Although Jazz has served a short-term in House, he is a veteran in Democratic politics in Maryland and has keen insight on issues facing urban, suburban and rural communities. He will be a great teammate with Chairman Luedtke to keep the Democratic Caucus focused on moving Maryland forward next term.”
Additional leadership announcements include:
- Darryl Barnes (District 25) – Assistant Speaker Pro Tem
- Cheryl Glenn (District 45) – Vice Chair, Rules and Executive Nominations
- Michael Jackson (District 27B) – Chair, Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology and Biotechnology
- Samuel I. Rosenberg (District 41) – Chair, Joint Legislative Ethics Committee
- Ben Barnes (District 21) – Vice Chair of Capital Budget Subcommittee
- Mark Chang (District 32) – Vice Chair of Public Safety & Administration Subcommittee
- Shelly Hettleman (District 11) – Chair, Joint Committee on Audit
- Brooke Lierman (District 46) – Vice Chair of Transportation & Environment Subcommittee and Vice Chair of Pension Subcommittee
- Geraldine Valentino- Smith (District 23A) – Vice Chair, Health and Social Services Subcommittee
- Marc Korman (District 16) – Chair, Personnel Subcommittee
Environment & Transportation Subcommittee
- David Fraser-Hidalgo (District 15) – Chair, Motor Vehicle & Transportation Subcommittee
- Jim Gilchrist (District 17) – Chair, Land Use & Ethics Subcommittee
- Steve Lafferty (District 42A) – Chair, Environment Subcommittee
Earlier this year, Delegate Jay Walker (District 26) was named Vice Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee.
Additional leadership announcements will be made later this year.