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Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, Sen. Brian Frosh
Sen. Nathaniel McFadden and Sen. Brian Frosh debate Senate Bill 247 on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

Miller swaps out city senators on key committee

Two long-time senators from Baltimore City will switch committee assignments with just three weeks left in the session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. made the call Monday night to permanently re-assign Sen. Lisa Gladden, vice chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, to the Budget and Taxation Committee but not before Republicans blocked an earlier effort to replace her and sent her to the Senate Rules Committee on a temporary basis.

Sen. Lisa A. Gladden

Sen. Lisa A. Gladden [Facebook]

Replacing Gladden is Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, who will leave the budget committee but will not be named vice chairman. That position, at least for now, will remain vacant, according to Miller, who said he wanted to “give it a whirl.”

Miller said the need for the change was driven by an imbalance on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which has been working without Gladden for the last two weeks.

Miller said it is important that the votes in committee “reflect what the Senate itself would do.”

“These are important bills whether it be capital punishment or abortion what have you and it should reflect the will of the body,” Miller said, adding that “Baltimore City needs a representative on that committee and there needs to be another African-American on that committee.”

But Miller said that despite his mention of controversial bills, he wasn’t aware of anything of great import coming up on the committee agenda.

In an interview following an evening Senate floor session, Miller said the move was made because the budget committee has largely wrapped up its work for the session and Judicial Proceedings has a number of meaty matters to deal with and is missing a representative from the city with the absence of Gladden.

Gladden was hospitalized two weeks ago while battling multiple sclerosis — a disease she was first diagnosed with nearly 20 years ago. She was recently transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Baltimore. It is not yet clear when she might return.

Miller was blocked earlier in the evening by Senate Republicans after he attempted to temporarily assign McFadden to Judicial Proceedings while also serving on the budget committee and having a vote on both panels.

Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr., R-Upper Shore and Senate Minority Whip, objected, citing Senate rules that prevent senators from serving on two different standing committees at the same time. Miller initially resisted, saying he would seek an opinion from legislative counsel, but he later relented, saying he was wrong. He then announced he would make the corresponding switches permanent, at least for the balance of the session.

“Every once in a while I’m wrong,” Miller said. “My wife reminds me of it every single day. My pastor reminds me of it every week.”