Look to these 10 men and women to make a big impact on the 2019 legislative session.
House Speaker Michael Busch
Questions remain about his health and the upcoming session for the second consecutive year. Fifteen months after undergoing a living donor liver transplant in 2017, Busch underwent emergency bypass surgery in September. He turned 72 days before the start of the session, his 33rd year in the legislature.
Sen. Cory McCray
The ambitious Baltimore delegate jumped to the Senate — and vice chair of the Democratic Party — after one term by knocking off Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, the Senate president pro tem and longtime ally to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. Miller has since developed a relationship with McCray and given him a coveted slot on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee in a year where education funding will be a big issue — especially for McCray’s home jurisdiction.
Treasurer Nancy Kopp
After all the rumors of a desire on the part of some legislators to have a stronger voice on the Board of Public Works, will Kopp remain in the position she has held since 2002. Kopp has expressed a desire to return but possible alternatives still circulate in Annapolis, including Prince George’s County Democratic Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk.
Comptroller Peter Franchot
The comptroller is a wild card in almost any session and he has four more years to needle local officials on air conditioning, side with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and be a general thorn in the side of the Democratic leaders in the General Assembly, which he refers to as a machine he wishes to disrupt. Oh, and the legislature still needs to look at whether they’re going to restrict or eliminate his authority to regulate and enforce the law on the alcoholic beverage industry.
Sen. Robert A. ‘Bobby’ Zirkin
The chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is the sole survivor among Miller’s four standing committee chairs following the retirement of one and the primary defeats of two others. How much will Miller rely on Zirkin and will the chairman attempt to expand marijuana laws in the state including recreational marijuana and decriminalization.
House and Senate Republicans
The minority party got a little smaller (in the House of Delegates) after an election cycle where members had hoped to increase their numbers (in the Senate but only netted one seat) and help Gov. Larry Hogan prevent automatic veto overrides. Now what?
Dels. Luke Clippinger and Vanessa Atterbeary
The newly minted chair and vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee represent a generational shift in that panel’s leadership after the primary defeat of long-time chairman and Prince George’s County Democratic Del. Joseph Vallario.
Sen. Andy Serafini
The Republican from Western Maryland is a wonk, but Republicans and Democrats trust his knowledge on the budget. If not for his party affiliation, Serafini would likely have a leadership role on the Budget and Tax Committee. His experience could prove to be an even greater asset in a year where there is no structural deficit but a big need to plan for looming big-ticket items and deep budget holes (and a possible economic downturn) in the final three years of the term.
University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret and Board of Regents chair Linda Gooden
Both will have to work with legislators angry about the way fallout from the death of football player Jordan McNair was handled, especially a perception that the Board of Regents overstepped its role as a governing body in recommending then-coach DJ Durkin return to the football team while university president Wallace Loh said he would retire in June. At a fall hearing, legislators called for an increase in transparency and accountability for the board. House Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh told the pair that more discussions were likely during the year. Caret and Gooden could also face questions over an outbreak of adenovirus on the College Park campus that led to the death of a student and over a lawsuit over how UMBC handled sexual assault cases.
Sen. William C. ‘Will’ Smith Jr.
Senate President Mike Miller named the Montgomery County Democrat to be vice chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee after the June primary, though Smith — at that time a 2016 appointee to the Senate — was not an elected senator. Smith, who ran unopposed for election this year in arguably Maryland’s bluest legislative district, has said he will advocate for the legal rights of immigrants, juveniles and the indigent this legislative session.