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The $200,000 Senate conference studio is called a ‘good investment’ by Senate President Bill Ferguson, who says it will help lawmakers communicate with constituents. (THE DAILY RECORD/BRYAN P. SEARS)
The $200,000 Senate conference studio is called a ‘good investment’ by Senate President Bill Ferguson, who says it will help lawmakers communicate with constituents. (THE DAILY RECORD/BRYAN P. SEARS)

Maryland Senate has new digs for its news conferences

ANNAPOLIS — Senate President Bill Ferguson spent $200,000 renovating a room for use as a space for news conferences.

The room, which some said seemed ostentatious even for a palatial Senate building named for Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., has had a number of incarnations over the last 20 years.

“He outfitted that crazy room on the first floor of Miller building like a baroque lord,” said one retired lawmaker.

The crimson-carpeted room features a wireless camera and a control room — which still has some kinks that legislative techs are working out. At the far end is a podium outfitted with the seal of the Senate of Maryland.

Behind the podium is a three-tiered set of risers large enough to accommodate large numbers of lawmakers who are typically present at high-profile bill announcements.

The Senate spent nearly $183,000 on audio and video upgrades for the room. Another nearly $14,000 was spent on carpeting. Three U.S. and three Maryland flags outfitted with poles cost nearly $1,400.

“We wanted to provide ways for all senators to be able to communicate with their constituents effectively and so that’s what this room is about: making sure we have easy ways to communicate with our constituents while we’re in session,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson.

Ferguson said the renovations were needed because of a $140 million project that will raze and replace the existing Department of Legislative Services office building adjacent to the State House. Workers in those buildings, including attorneys, bill drafters and analysts, are squeezed into any open space in either the House or Senate office buildings.

In the Miller office building, that means legislative services occupies all the first floor flex conference room space that holds press conferences and receptions.

“We have an incredible building that will be built, but the old building is totally closed,” said Ferguson, adding that the rooms in the Miller building “where we used to host events and have constituents in is no longer available to us for the next two and a half years.”

Ferguson, speaking to reporters, called the expenditure “a good investment.”

A handful of reporters took a short tour a week before the session started. Most, however, got their first look when Ferguson held an opening day media availability.

Dubbed “the media room,” the space was temporarily studio space for Maryland Public Television.

The station installed the grid in the ceiling. A small control room in the back was home to racks of audio and video equipment.

But the rough studio space was only used a few times. A year later it morphed into a repository for desks, chairs and other legislative flotsam and jetsam.

The control room, however, remained for several years as the station recorded Senate hearings for rebroadcast.

Ultimately, MPT removed all of the equipment leaving only the abandoned furniture and dust.

In 2021, Ferguson made the space available to reporters in an effort to provide additional space to allow for social distancing in a pandemic.


One comment

  1. Hope this media space gets good use so Marylanders receive important communication updates from their state lawmakers!