New leaders are elected for the House of Delegates & the State Senate
Annapolis, Md (KM) The 90-day Maryland General Assembly is up and running. The 2020 Session began on Wednesday with the election of new leadership for the House of Delegates and State Senate. Delegate Adrienne Jones was chosen as Speaker of the House of Delegates, and Senator Bill Ferguson was selected as Senate President, the first new Senate President in Maryland in more than three decades. Ferguson replaces Senator Mike Miller, who stepped down due to health issues.
Frederick County Delegate Ken Kerr (D) said Delegate Jones’ election a Speaker was the highlight of Wednesday’s activities at the State House. “Everyone’s really excited that for the first time in the 441-year history of the Maryland House of Delegates, we have our first female and African-American Speaker. So that was the real high point of the day when we elected Delegate Adrienne Jones as our speaker,” he says.
Also commenting on Jones’ election was Frederick County Delegate Jesse Pippy (R), the chairman of the local legislative delegation. “She actually served as the Speaker Pro Tem for the last 16 years, which is the kind of the second-in-command so to speak,” he says. “She’s not the stranger to the front of the room. She’s been, more or less, assisting and running the sessions for quite some time.”
Delegate Jones takes over from Speaker Michael Busch, who died last year.
Pippy says the first day was more a festive occasion where lawmakers get reacquainted with each other, and met other public officials and citizens.. The actual work gets underway the next day. Pippy says his job as Delegation Chair is to get the county’s legislation through the General Assembly. “And insuring that Frederick County is well represented in Annapolis. And any local priorities that we have, obviously, we’re going to work very hard to get them through,” he says.
Delegate Kerr says he will introduce 12 bills this year. “About six of them are things I’m interested in doing, dealing with the craft beverage industry, agriculture in Frederick County and higher education,” he says. “And then another six were brought to me by constituents: consumer protections and other things that have to do with the welfare of people in my district,” he says.
Kerr has also been appointed as a deputy whip for his party,where he will try to round the votes needed for bills before the General Assembly. . “It’s a lot of vote-counting and you’re assigned a certain number of delegates that you check on before a third re-vote comes in to make sure we have the votes in order for the legislation to pass,” he says.
Delegate Pippy says he will be working on public safety bills. “We’re going to focus on criminal justice, juvenile justice, the opioid crisis; we’re going to have a human trafficking bill as well as some mental health initiatives to be sure we’re taking care of our younger folks in our community as well,” he says.
This will be Pippy’s second General Assembly Session, and he realizes the job comes with a lot of work. “It’s not party, especially if you want to get anything done. And so I think the difference is I’m a little wiser than I was last year, and we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he says
Kerr, whose a member of the Committee on Health and Government Operations, hopes to do more in Annapolis this year. “After a year in, I hope to be more active in my committee,” he says.
Among the issues lawmakers will be dealing with for 2020 include requiring background checks for anyone who wants to buy a shotgun or rifle; legislation to ban flavored vaping products; and a plan to rebuild Pimlico Race Course and keep the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.
By Kevin McManus