Just 21 of the 140 current members of the House of Delegates were in the chamber the last time a new speaker was elected. So this is an unfamiliar process for almost everyone.
The late Speaker Michael Erin Busch was a popular Anne Arundel lawmaker who built consensus among Democrats weeks before a caucus vote in late 2002 – a far different election than what’s in store for the chamber on Wednesday, when delegates will gather for a special session at noon to choose a new leader.
A contested race is underway between Economic Matters Chair Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) and Appropriations Chair Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City).
Here’s what will happen:
At 10 a.m., the House Republican and Democratic caucuses are scheduled to meet and take caucus votes. In the past, the winner of a caucus vote has garnered the unanimous support of the party caucus in a floor vote.
But that could change this year after House Republicans indicated they would vote as a bloc to try to leverage a divided Democratic caucus to elect the speaker candidate of their choosing.
The floor session is scheduled to start at noon. House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) will preside.
Both the House and Senate chambers will convene – though the Senate has considerably less business before it, consisting only of the sending and receiving of formal notices across the hall and up to the governor’s office that lawmakers have convened. (Under the Maryland Constitution, the Senate, which was once the Governor’s Council, can hold a special session on its own; but the House of Delegates cannot meet unless the Senate is also called to order.)
In the House, the floor will be opened to all nominations for speaker. As is customary, the candidates are likely to have pre-arranged the delegates who will offer statements nominating and seconding their candidacy.
Once the nominations are closed, there will be a roll call vote of the full chamber. Members will be called on one-by-one to name the candidate they’re voting for – if there is more than one candidate nominated on the floor. A simple majority of the members present — 71 out of 140, if everyone is there — wins the speaker’s position.
After the vote, a new speaker will take the oath of office.
Whomever is elected on Wednesday will hold the office until the start of the next regular session in January, as the speaker is elected annually, despite the long terms enjoyed by Busch and Maryland’s other recent speakers.
After Wednesday’s election, a committee chairmanship will open on one of two influential House committees, depending on who wins. The new speaker will name a replacement.