“This is one of the largest turnovers that we’ve seen, especially as we look at the Senate,” said Alice Wilkerson, a lobbyist from Public Policy Partners hired to represent the city at the General Assembly in Annapolis, at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “With a large number of new senators coming in, I think there will be some opportunities to start new relationships.”
Wilkerson explained that November’s elections created turnover within the leadership of the Senate’s Finance; Judicial Proceedings; Budget and Taxation; and Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committees, with very few incumbents remaining.
Of the eight chairs and vice chairs, all Democrats, only three incumbents return to the chamber. Bobby Zirkin (District 11), who chairs the Judicial Proceedings committee; Sen. Paul Pinsky (District 22), the vice chair of the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee; and Delores Kelley (District 10), the vice chair of the Judicial Proceedings committee, won reelection and will return for the 2019 Legislative Session.
Budget and Taxation committee chair and vice-chair, Sens. Edward Kasemeyer (District 12) and Rich Madaleno (District 18), opted to retire with Madeleno running unsuccessfully for governor. Sen. Joan Carter Conway (District 43), who chaired the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee, and Sen. Thomas Middleton (District 28), who chaired the Finance committee, lost to primary challengers, while Middleton’s vice chair, Sen. John Astle (District 30), opted not to seek reelection.
Wilkerson explained that, with the new membership in both the Senate and House of Delegates, committee membership is hard to foresee, which in turn makes it difficult to predict which major legislative issues will dominate the session.
“By now I could identify that the gas tax might be talked about, [but this year] there’s no major feel that there’s one major issue that’s going to be taken on,” Wilkerson said, noting that the conclusions of the Kirwin Commission will generate numerous education-related bills.
Wilkerson also said the major issues from the 2018 legislative session, such as small-business funding and housing, are likely to return during the 2019 legislative session.
Council member Kacy Kostiuk (Ward 3) asked if any of the new delegation members would need to be educated to understand the role of municipalities.
Wilkerson stated that because Prince George’s County has 27 municipalities compared to Montgomery County’s 19, the former’s delegation is “much more aware” of their municipal needs.
The District 20 delegation, consisting of Sen. Will Smith, Del. David Moon, Del. Jheanelle Wilkins and Del.-elect Lorig Charkoudian, will meet with the Takoma Park City Council on Wednesday, Dec. 19.
All four members will be sworn in on Jan. 9.