Senate President Miller appoints new committee chairs — expecting to be back in charge for a 33rd year

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Senate President Mike Miller. MarylandReporter.com photo

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

As Speaker Michael Busch did a few days before, on Friday Senate President Mike Miller named new committee chairs for the next term, presuming their re-election and his own for a 33rd year as the longest serving presiding officer in Maryland and the nation.

Miller’s task was harder than Busch’s after two of his long-time committee chairs — Sens. Mac Middleton of Charles County, 72, and Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore, 67 — lost re-election bids and several other senior Senate leaders retired.

Miller, 75, went even further than Busch in bringing in a new generation of leaders by naming two first-term senators in their 30s as vice chairs of major standing committees. They are part of a Senate that is decidedly younger and more progressive as almost all the senators who are leaving voluntarily or by defeat are being replaced by senators who are younger, sometimes by decades.

But the age of the new committee chairs range from 68 to 82.

Miller’s appointments were largely predicted in a July 4 article in Maryland Matters by Bruce DePuyt.

King, Kelley, Pinsky

Sen. Nancy King of Montgomery County, 68, will become chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and Sen. Bill Ferguson of Baltimore City, 35, will be vice-chair. They replace Sen. Ed Kasemeyer of Howard County, 73, who retired, and Sen. Rich Madaleno of Montgomery County, 53, who lost a bid for governor.

Sen. Delores Kelley of Baltimore County, 82, becomes chair of the Finance Committee and Sen. Brian Feldman of Montgomery County, 57, becomes vice-chair. They replace Middleton and Sen. John Astle of Anne Arundel, 75, who retired.

Replacing Conway, Sen, Paul Pinsky, 68, becomes chair of Education, Health & Environmental Affairs, where he has been vice chair for four years and served since 1994. Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, 79, replaces Pinsky as vice chair.

On the Judicial Proceedings Committee, Sen. Will Smith of Montgomery County, 36, replaces Kelley as vice chair, while Sen. Bobby Zirkin of Baltimore County, 47, remains as chair.

Unlike Busch, who named subcommittee chairs and other leadership posts, Miller said remaining appointments will not be made till after the election.

“With six to eight seats in play, we will not know enough about the composition of the chamber to determine the allocation of seats between the political parties, and whether there are additional vacancies on committees,” Miller said in his letter to Senate colleagues.

Like Busch, Miller has full continue control over committee appointments and leadership positions, including on which committees Republicans will serve. The GOP does get to pick its own leaders.

Miller’s reference to “six to eight seats in play,” coincides with a comment Gov. Larry Hogan made on July 10. Hogan said that in addition to the GOP goal of picking up five more Senate seats in its “Drive for Five” campaign, “The question is whether we’re going to get six or seven or eight Republican senators.”

Many Democrats believe that Republicans could pick up as few as two or three Senate seats.

Click here for the full text of Miller’s letter.