MD Senate Leadership Shakeup

MARYLAND MATTERS: The departure of the chair of one standing committee is causing a cascade of changes within the leadership of the Maryland Senate chamber.

The shuffling announced to senators on Tuesday follows last week’s news that Senate Finance Chair Melony Griffith (D-Prince George’s) is vacating her seat to move to the private sector.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore) said in a letter to the Senate that he sought “input from many” before announcing the changes that will take effect Nov. 1.

In his announcement, Ferguson named Sen. Pamela Beidle (D-Anne Arundel) chair of the Senate Finance Committee, succeeding Griffith.

The reassignments were not unexpected. Ferguson teased coming changes during a breakfast meeting Monday in Montgomery County.

Griffith announced Friday that she is leaving the Senate at the end of the month, after accepting a lucrative job as the president of the Maryland Hospital Association.

The departure sets off a ripple effect. Ferguson had to not only find a new chair but also carefully balance the political considerations of his caucus including race, gender and geography.

The 34-member Senate Democratic Caucus includes 15 women and 15 Black lawmakers.

Griffith is the only woman and only woman of color to lead a standing committee. She is also the only senator from Prince George’s County to chair a committee. She is also the only representative from her county to serve on the Senate Finance Committee, whose broad portfolio includes health care policy, business regulation and labor issues.

Beidle, a member of the committee, will take over as chair, and give up her gavel as chair of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee. She assumed leadership of that panel earlier this year after three years as vice chair.

In addition to Beidle, Ferguson announced a number of other related moves:

Sen. Alonzo Washington (D-Prince George’s) will move from the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to Senate Finance. The switch brings the Finance Committee up to full strength and maintains a Prince George’s County presence on the panel.

Washington’s move likely means that a newly minted senator for Griffith’s vacancy will be seated on Judicial Proceedings.

Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore) will succeed Beidle as chair of Executive Nominations. Hayes served as vice chair of that committee this past session. Hayes will also vacate his position as majority whip.

Sen. Clarence Lam (D-Anne Arundel and Howard) will succeed Hayes as vice chair of Executive Nominations and become the first Asian American to serve as chair or vice chair of a Senate committee.

Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s) will succeed Hayes and become the new Senate majority whip. Benson will give up her role as chair of the Senate Rules Committee.

Sen. Michael A. Jackson (D-Prince George’s, Charles and Calvert) will become vice chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County) will move up to become the chair of Senate Rules. She previously served as vice chair of the panel.

Hettleman will be joined by Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s), who becomes the new vice chair of Senate Rules. Muse will also fill Griffith’s seat on the Senate Executive Nominations Committee.

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