Speaker Busch May Miss Rest of Legislative Session

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) presiding over the House last month. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who last presided over the House of Delegates chamber a week ago, may miss the rest of the legislative session, his office said Monday night.

Busch, 72, has been missing on and off from the State House, including for meetings about the insider-dealing scandal involving the University of Maryland Medical System board, for the past couple of weeks. Busch’s chief of staff, Alexandra M. Hughes, represented him earlier this month at a hearing for House Bill 1428, emergency legislation he introduced to reform the board, where he was served for 16 years, after questions over contracting practices arose during this year’s session. The bill was expected to reach the House floor Tuesday after a favorable committee report.

Hughes released a statement from the speaker before Monday evening’s session.

“After a follow-up procedure to my 2017 liver transplant, I started feeling run-down after the Democratic Caucus meeting last Tuesday. I have developed a case of pneumonia, which has kept me away from Annapolis this week,” Busch said in the statement. “I am staying in touch with my staff and members of House leadership and am very proud of the job Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones is doing presiding over the House.”

Busch, who has served as speaker since 2003, does not have an expected return date to the chamber’s rostrum. The session concludes at midnight on April 8.

“While I hope to be back before Sine Die, my doctors have advised caution during my recovery,” Busch’s statement concluded.

Jones made a brief statement during Monday night’s floor session about the speaker’s absence, noting that she spoke with him over the weekend and he remains hospitalized.

“He is coming along, thinking about all of us,” Jones said. “He is still being checked on, they want to make sure everything is correct with him.”

When she told the chamber “You’ve got me right now,” delegates responded with a standing ovation.

Elected by District 30 in Anne Arundel County, Busch has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1987.

Following the 2017 legislative session, Busch received a liver transplant after being diagnosed with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. The speaker also had heart bypass surgery last year.

Lawmakers said they learned that the speaker might miss the rest of the session on Monday evening.

After the floor proceedings, House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) said he and the speaker had grown closer over the last few years.

“He’s certainly had his share of health problems over the last few years, and actually that’s brought he and I a lot closer,” Kipke said. “Me and the entire Kipke family are praying for a full and quick recovery and we hope to see him back soon.”

Del. Mark S. Chang (D), chairman of the Anne Arundel County delegation, said the delegation’s work for the session is done and said Busch’s staff has been very supportive during his absence.

“On behalf of the entire Anne Arundel delegation, we wish Speaker Busch the very best. We hope that he recovers well,” Chang said. “He’s been a mentor to each and every one of us.”

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who himself has missed some floor sessions this year as he receives treatment for Stage 4 prostate cancer, addressed the speaker’s announcement at the start of the Senate session Monday night.

“He’s a fighter, we hope he comes back, but we’ll do the best we can,” Miller said.

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Danielle E. Gaines
Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.

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