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Senior citizens in charge at the State House


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Senate President Protem Nathaniel McFadden, left, swears in Senate President Mike Miller on Wednesday.  Courtesy Photo

Senate President Protem Nathaniel McFadden, left, swears in Senate President Mike Miller on Wednesday. Courtesy Photo

Published on: Friday, January 10, 2014

By Len Lazarick, MarylandReporter.com

Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. took the oath of office as president of the Maryland Senate for the 28th time Wednesday. “I love this position, I love this Senate,” he told the chamber.

He has sometimes referred to himself as “the poster boy” for term limits. Only one senator, Sen. Norman Stone, has served longer in the Senate than Miller, now 71. The other 45 senators have known no other president than Miller, the longest serving presiding legislative officer in the 50 states and the longest serving in Maryland by two decades.

Miller was reelected 43-1, with only Republican Bryan Simonaire in the negative. Democratic Sen. Jim Brochin of Baltimore County, sometimes the subject of Miller’s wrath, abstained.

In the House of Delegates across the hall, Michael E. Busch, who turned 67 last Saturday, took the oath of office for the 12th time, also the longest serving in Maryland history. His two teenage daughters were present, and he told reporters later that the younger one probably couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t speaker.

Very brief Republican revolt

There was a short lived Republican revolt over the speakership this year, a blip of a disruption in the opening-day protocol of good cheer. They briefly nominated Del. Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County, their new minority leader who will turn 35 later this month. Kipke was seven years old when Busch was first elected to the House.

“As the minority party in the Maryland House of Delegates, we look for the opportunity to vote for something rather than against it,” said Del. LeRoy Myers of Washington County. “While we deeply respect Speaker Busch, we hold a very different view on the policies that are best for the citizens of the state of Maryland. To that end, we feel it is time to nominate a member of the House who best represents the views of the minority party.”

Myers, who in 2002 defeated the House speaker who preceded Busch, Caspar Taylor, is leaving the House to run for Washington County commissioner, so he will escape any future punishment. The GOP revolt lasted for just a few minutes, and was defeated in a resounding voice vote.

It is expected that as many as 50 of the 141 members in the House of Delegates will not be returning next year, most of them voluntarily as they seek other offices or are retiring. That would be the highest number in two decades.

According to figures compiled by the Department of Legislative Services (page 12), that size of legislative turnover was more typical of the 1970s, but less so in recent decades. Before Miller and Busch, the presiding officers typically served one or two terms — four to eight years.

Their long-term reign has calcified leadership, leading to a senior ceiling in the legislature. With no turnover in the top jobs, which appoint all the other posts, there has been little change below them.

Anyone in their 30s joining the General Assembly will find a body run by people old enough to be their parents, or even grandparents.

The senior ceiling 

Here’s a rundown of the legislative leadership, with their current ages and length of service.

    Senate President Mike Miller, 71, 28 years as president, the longest serving presiding officer of a legislature in the United States and in Maryland history, 38 years in the Senate.

     House Speaker Michael Busch, 67, 12 years as speaker, longest service as speaker in Maryland history, 28 years in the House of Delegates.

      Del. Sheila Hixson, 80, 20 years as chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, 39 years in the House.

      Del. Joe Vallario, 76, 20 years as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, 40 years in the House.

    Del. Norm Conway, 71, 12 years as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, 28 years in the House;

   Del. Jim Proctor, 77, Appropriations vice chair, 24 years in the House

     Del. Maggie McIntosh, 66, 12 years as chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, 22 years in the House;

    Del. Dereck Davis, 46, 12 years as chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, 20 years in the House.

      Del. Peter Hammen, 47, 10 years as chairman of the House Health and Government Operations Committee, 20 years in the House;

      Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, 68, three years as chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee, 24 years in the Senate;

       Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, 67, President Pro Tem and vice chair of Budget and Taxation, 20 years in the Senate.

      Sen. Thomas Mac Middleton, 68, 12 years as chair of Finance Committee, 20 years in the Senate

      Sen. John Astle, 70, 12 years as vice chair of Finance, 20 years in the Senate, 12 in the House;

      Sen. Brian Frosh, 67, 12 years as chairman of Judicial Proceedings Committee, 20 years in the Senate, (running for attorney general)

     Sen. Joan Carter Conway, 62, 8 years as chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, 18 years in the Senate

 Sen. Roy Dyson, 65, 12 years as vice chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, 20 years in the Senate, 6 years in the House of Delegates, 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

(Full disclosure for AARP: Editor and publisher Len Lazarick is 65, and has been in his current position four years. Since he began covering the legislature on and off since 1976, he has worked for six different employers.)

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