State Roundup October 25, 2019

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MILLER STEPPING DOWN, FERGUSON WILL TAKE REINS: Longtime Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller announced Thursday that he will relinquish his gavel and seat at the front of the historic Senate chamber, and a more liberal senator from Baltimore half his age was named as his successor, reports Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

  • Miller called his decision to not seek reelection as president when the General Assembly convenes in January a “consensus” decision made with his family, physicians and his colleagues within the Democratic Party caucus, reports Holden Wilen for the Baltimore Business Journal.
  • Miller announced prior to last year’s General Assembly session that he was battling stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer, reports Marty Madden and Paul Lagasse for The St. Mary’s Enterprise. “My mind is strong, but my body is weak,” he said Thursday.
  • Maryland Democrats have backed Sen. Bill Ferguson to succeed Miller as Senate President, reports the Post. A liberal-leaning former teacher who has been a strong voice for increasing education funding and revamping Maryland public schools, Ferguson, 36, will probably shift the Senate to the left.
  • The announcements mark a seismic change for the chamber, reports Bryan Sears for The Daily Record. Few senators have known any leader other than Miller, who has held the gavel for 32 years and had a Senate office building named after him while still president. Miller, 76, has been president of the Senate since 1987, making him the longest serving Senate president in the nation.
  • While Miller’s climb to power came during an era of testosterone-fueled machine politics, Ferguson came of age in a time of democratizing technological and cultural change, reports Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.
  • Miller already announced he will not seek re-election in 2022, reports David Collins for WBAL.

REACTION TO MILLER ANNOUNCEMENT: Miller will continue to represent his district as senator. But despite his health struggles, Miller’s statement jolted Annapolis, reports Bruce DePuyt in Maryland Matters. His cocksure personality, his use of raw power to sway legislation and budgetary priorities, and the length of his tenure combined to make him the dominant force in State House politics for 33 years.

  • Those who previously worked with Ferguson expressed optimism about his ability to do the job, even if on the surface he appears a dramatic departure from Miller, reports Adam Bednar for The Daily Record.
  • In recent years, some have said Baltimore’s political clout in Annapolis is declining, with economist Anirban Basu likening the city’s influence to a “fading star” compared with other jurisdictions, reports Brandon Weigel for Baltimore Fishbowl. So the news that one of the city’s state senators was picked as the successor to the longtime Senate president was embraced by Baltimore’s political leaders as a chance to have an advocate in a position of influence.
  • With Ferguson as Senate President and Adreinne Jones as House Speaker, both chambers will now be led by Baltimore area elected officials, reports Ryan Dickstein for WMAR.
  • Here are four things to know about Ferguson, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun in a look at the man who has a career in education and a law degree.
  • Kevin Kinnally, Natasha Mehu, and Les Knapp discuss the latest news and notes from Annapolis on the Conduit Street podcast for the Maryland Association of Counties, including Miller’s decision to step down after presiding over the chamber for over thirty years.

OPINION:INHERITING A THRONE FROM A LION IN WINTER:’ The 76-year-old Miller has presided over his chamber like a lion managing his pride, outlasting, out-maneuvering, out-working all challengers session after session, governor after governor, opines the editorial board of the Sun in an analysis of what this means for the state. And with Ferguson stepping into leadership, to suggest that Charm City has suddenly received a major gift of good political fortune is an understatement on par with observing that Baltimore steamed crabs taste pretty good, they continue.

  • While it’s not going to happen overnight, the culture in the Senate is going to change dramatically – more so, most likely, than if any of the other contenders to succeed Miller had prevailed, writes Josh Kurtz in analysis for Maryland Matters.

CUMMMINGS LIES IN STATE, FUNERAL TODAY: The nation’s political elite gathered in the U.S. Capitol Thursday to celebrate the life of Baltimore’s native son, the late Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, reports Allison Stevens for Maryland Matters. In a week otherwise marked by partisan acrimony, Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate came together to praise Cummings for his ability to bring people together in a sharply divided time.

  • Many of the thousands of mourners who gathered Thursday at the Capitol to honor the life of Cummings remembered his frequent refrain, “We can do better!” and prayed his legacy would live on, reports Jenna Portnoy and Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.
  • Cummings was the first African American member of Congress to lie in state in the Capitol, reports Jeff Barker for the Sun. Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks and Capitol Police officer Jacob Chestnut — killed in a Capitol shooting in 1998 — had previously received the distinction of “lying in honor,” which is what the tribute is called for people who haven’t held elected office.
  • Members of Congress bid a tearful farewell Thursday to Cummings, hailing the son of sharecroppers as a “master of the House,” reports the AP.
  • In their own words, the staff of the Baltimore Sun share memories from Maryland residents remembering Cummings.

KIRWAN ON EDUCATION URGENCY: Tom Hall speaks with Dr. Brit Kirwan on the urgency of funding education on Midday for WYPR. Kirwan, the chair of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence, asks what is the cost of not doing so.

  • Baltimore education advocates packed an elementary school auditorium Thursday night to gear up for what they see as a once-in-a-generation chance to revamp the way Maryland funds its public schools and ensure every child receives a quality education, reports Talia Richman for the Sun.

FREDERICK HOTEL DEBATE: A decision in Frederick to move forward with plans for a hotel/conference center without state funding is continuing to generate debate, reports Steve Bohnel for the Frederick News-Post. Depending on which local state senator you ask, the news is either good or bad.

CAREER TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION EXPANDING: Maryland is among the states expanding programs in which high schools give students more career options beyond graduation, reports Tim Tooten for WBAL.

HARSH DUI PENALTIES: Maryland State Police troopers assigned to the North East Barrack stopped 31 motorists in Cecil County during September and charged them with drunken and/or drugged driving, reports Carl Hamilton for the Cecil Whig. A new state law is providing for harsher DUI sentences.

SQUEEGEE KIDS STRUGGLE:A physical struggle between a woman and a group of squeegee kids ended with a gunshot, reports Brian Kuebler and Ryan Dickstein for WMAR. No one was shot, but incident is the latest of many involving squeegee kids in Baltimore.

DEEP CREEK LAKE PERMITTING: Those whose interests lie above the dam at Deep Creek Lake and those whose rest below are not so far apart in what they view as what’s best for the region’s future, reports Joseph Haugher for the Garrett County Republican. The Maryland Department of the Environment is conducting a hearing process for a water use permit for the dam at the lake.