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Changing Of The Guard In The Maryland Legislature

Rachel Baye

The General Assembly kicked off its 441st legislative session on Wednesday with new people leading both the Senate and the House of Delegates. That hasn’t happened for 33 years — since outgoing Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. first stepped into the role. 


In the House, Democrat Adrienne Jones of Baltimore County opened her first session as speaker. She was elected in May, following the death of Speaker Michael Busch. 


“Today we are living history with the nomination before us,” said Del. Jheanelle Wilkins of Montgomery County as she nominated Jones for speaker, a formality legislators observe each year.


Jones is the first African American and the first woman to hold the role.


Across the State House’s marble hall, Miller nominated Democrat Bill Ferguson, of Baltimore City, to replace him as Senate president. 


Miller is stepping down from his leadership role as a result of his battle with prostate cancer. The body voted to create the position of Senate President Emeritus for Miller, who will finish out his four-year term from a seat on the floor. He was the longest-serving state senate president in the country.


“What a day,” Ferguson said with a sigh as he took his new place at the chamber’s rostrum. He was visibly nervous as he led the floor session.


In his remarks, he emphasized the continuity of their work as lawmakers, despite the transition in leadership. He recalled something Miller used to say.


“The good senator from the 27th district over and over reminded us that the times change, but the people and challenges don’t,” he said. 


He said many of the challenges faced by residents in Western Maryland are also faced in Ellicott City or in Baltimore. He called for unity as the chamber’s 31 Democrats and 15 Republicans work to solve problems over the next 89 days.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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