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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Miller announces new leadership team for Senate Democrats

The rumors of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.’s demise may be overstated.

That’s at least part of the subtext of Miller’s announcement Friday of a new leadership team that almost completely overhauls the chairs and vice chairs of the four major standing committees.

Thomas V. "Mike" Miller

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller. File Photo, Feb. 26, 2014. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

“This leadership team has a depth of experience and expertise which will be critical as we fight to strengthen our schools, stabilize our health care system, protect our natural resources, and make our communities safer and more inclusive. I believe strongly that our diversity is our strength, and this leadership team reflects the diversity of the Senate and the State,” Miller said. “I am grateful to our outgoing leadership team for their contributions and sacrifices, and I know our new leaders are prepared to meet the challenges our State faces.”

Sen. Robert “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, is the only returning chairman and will continue to lead the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Sen. Will Smith, meanwhile, continues to see his star rise in the legislature. After two years in the House of Delegates, he was appointed to the Senate in 2016. Next year, the Montgomery County Democrat will take over for Sen. Delores Kelley as vice chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat elected to the Senate in 1995, will become chair of the Finance Committee. She replaces Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, a Charles County Democrat who lost to a primary challenger.

Sen. Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, will be the vice chair of the Finance Committee. He succeeds Sen. John Astle, D-Anne Arundel, who retires at the end of the current term after 36 years in the General Assembly including 24 in the Senate.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee will also have a new chair and vice chair.

Sen. Nancy King, D-Montgomery, succeeds Sen. Ed Kasemeyer as chair of the budget committee. Kasemeyer, D-Howard and Baltimore Counties, retires at the end of the term. Sen. William “Bill” Ferguson, D-Baltimore, takes over as vice chairman after serving the last two years leading the Senate Executive Nominations Committee. Ferguson succeeds Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, moves from vice chairman to chairman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs after the primary defeat of Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore. Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, D-Baltimore County, will step in as vice chair of the committee on which she has served on since 2015.

The changes, which go into effect when the new legislature is seated in January, hint at Miller’s belief that he will continue on as the leader of the chamber as he has since 1987.

Going into the June primary, Miller already faced losing nearly a dozen senators who were retiring or running for other offices.  The primary election defeats of key Miller allies created what some called “a tectonic shift” in the Senate. Of the eight committee chairs and vice chairs only Zirkin and Pinsky remained.

Some believed that was Miller in danger of losing his grip on the gavel.

The Senate leader still has several other roles to fill out including Senate president pro tem and Senate majority leader.

Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, D-Baltimore and the first black Senate president pro tem, was defeated in the primary. Miller has already announced that Sen. Doug Peters, D-Prince George’s, would move from his role as the majority leader to chairman of the capital budget subcommittee.

Miller is not expected to name replacements for either position in the near future.

The changes in the Senate were announced two days after similar changes were announced in the House of Delegates by Speaker Michael E. Busch.

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