Senators Now Have D.C.-Style Studio for Days They Meet the Press
The Maryland Senate spent nearly $200,000 to construct a flag-draped platform for members of the chamber to conduct television interviews, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore) announced on Thursday.
The money was used to install television lights, monitors, an audio system, a Capitol Hill-style lectern, American and Maryland flags, plush candy apple red carpeting, and a raised platform.
Ferguson used the set-up for the first time on Wednesday, the first day of the legislature’s 90-day session.
The Senate Media Center was built in a previously under-used room in the Miller Senate Office Building, across the street from the State House. Ferguson aides have insisted that — despite the splashy new interview area — he will continue to hold informal “gaggles” on the Senate floor.
In a memo to colleagues, Ferguson described the $198,000 in “renovations.”
“The room had not been used in recent history for its intended purpose and did not have any 21st Century media capabilities,” he wrote. “The renovated Senate Media Center offers all senators a place and opportunity to communicate with constituents and press during the session and interim.”
He said the media center is part of a two-year $120-million plan to replace the Department of Legislative Service building, a cramped and outdated structure on Lawyer’s Mall that will be razed in June.
The building “has deteriorated significantly, become prohibitively expensive to maintain and challenging, and at times, a hazardous work environment for employees,” Ferguson wrote.
To prepare for the demolition, DLS works have been moved into open spaces in the House and Senate office buildings, including the meeting areas where senators previously held large press events.
Ferguson’s memo to colleagues was released one day after reporters inquired about the cost of the media center upgrade. In addition to the memo, the Senate leader discussed it during Thursday’s floor session.
“There are zero open spaces in any of the office buildings in either the House or the Senate,” Ferguson said. “It is full to the gills with print shop and mail room and all of our incredible DLS staff. So we’ve had to make some adjustments in the way we think about space and the way we use space.”
Although such expenditures can be controversial, Senate Minority Leader Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) offered no criticism.