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Government & Politics

New legislators get schooled on how to make friends, find success in Annapolis

Incoming state lawmakers greet one another Monday morning in the State House. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

Five weeks ago they were on the campaign trail. Five weeks from now, they will be sworn in as state legislators, completing a whirlwind transition. For many, it will be a first taste of public service.

To help ease the newcomers’ transition from citizen to servant, senior members of the General Assembly — lawmakers from both chambers and both parties — are offering a two-day crash course on what it takes to be a success.

Several speakers at Monday’s opening session in the House of Delegates chamber urged next year’s freshman class to treat one another with respect and to nurture bonds with colleagues of all stripes.

“Many of you ran on very big ideas,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City). “The key to being successful in the General Assembly is that passion, but it is also about relationships. Build your relationships. … Learn what makes one another tick.”

House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery), a three-term member who has been tapped to serve as Gov.-elect Wes Moore’s head of legislative affairs, called the General Assembly “the greatest place I’ve ever worked.”

He echoed Ferguson’s advice. “You cannot get anything done in this legislature alone. You cannot,” he said. “Get to know people from different parts of the state and from different backgrounds. Because by getting to know them, your world will expand.”

New legislators were encouraged to hire a chief of staff whose personality meshes with theirs — and to quickly develop a system for organizing the official’s calendar.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) listens as House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) greets incoming members of the General Assembly in Annapolis on Monday morning. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) underscored the importance of the work that takes place in Annapolis. “Every year, we tackle tough issues, and this year is no different,” she said. “Marylanders are still struggling with inflation, dealing with rising health care costs, and struggling to afford homes.”

When the 141-member House of Delegates convenes in January, 38 members will be new. In the 47-member Senate, there will be eight newcomers.

In addition to the presiding officers, incoming legislators also heard Monday from Senate Majority Leader Nancy King (D-Montgomery), Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready (R-Carroll), Luedtke and House Minority Leader Jason Buckel (R-Allegany).

Several speakers sought to convince new legislators that Annapolis is far more cordial — and less partisan — than Capitol Hill. Across-the-aisle friendships are both common and encouraged. “(The) me-first attitude will only get you so far,” said Buckel. “If you’re trying to help people, you’ll go farther here.”

Luedtke also reminded the incoming lawmakers to stay in regular touch with the people who sent them to the State House.

“You’re in a bubble in Annapolis,” he said. “… It’s very easy to lose track of why you’re here. It’s very easy to get a big head and forget the people back home. It’s very important that you not lose touch with them.”

Several future members of the Senate are current or former members of the House, and numerous incoming members of the House have served in local government.

Over the course of the two-day orientation, they will receive briefings on the bill- and amendment-drafting process, security around (and beyond) the State House complex, the state’s ethics and open meetings laws, constituent service, and parliamentary procedure.

Many just-elected legislators had read about their future colleagues’ success in the media but had never met in person. During breaks in the program, they introduced themselves to one another and offered high-fives, giving the event a first-day-of-class feel.

“I’m so excited,” said Del.-elect Elizabeth Embry (D-Baltimore City), a former prosecutor who served until recently as an assistant attorney general. “The first time it really felt real was when I came down to meet with the speaker. And then today, it’s that feeling again. This is actually happening.”

Del.-elect Tom Hutchinson (R-Middle Shore) said he is “looking forward to working with all legislators to make Maryland a great place to live regardless of party.” He said he hopes to provide “outstanding constituent services in my district.”

Del.-elect Deni Taveras (D-Prince George’s), who served two terms on the Prince George’s County Council, said she is looking forward to bonding with and learning from other Hispanic legislators.

Annapolis sees its population swell during the legislature’s annual 90-day session and it is a driver of the city’s economy. Mayor Gavin Buckley (D) urged new legislators to patronize out-of-the-way restaurants, not just the usual hangouts close to the State House.

He also sounded a warning about the impact of climate change on the low-lying parts of the city. “We also face peril from sea-level rise, a plight shared by many coastal communities,” he said. “There will be times when communities like ours need legislators like you to have our back.”

In the afternoon, freshmen lawmakers attended a resource fair intended to help them hit the ground running.

Here are the future members of the General Assembly who will be sworn-in in January:

Incoming state senators

Dist. 1 (far Western Md.): Mike McKay (R), current state delegate, former Allegany County commissioner

Dist. 3 (Frederick): Karen Lewis Young (D), current delegate, former Frederick City alderwoman

Dist. 4 (Frederick): Bill Folden (R), former delegate

Dist. 10 (Baltimore City): Ben Brooks (D), current delegate

Dist. 26 (Prince George’s): Anthony Muse (D), former state senator who won his old seat back

Dist. 33 (Anne Arundel): Dawn Gile (D), attorney

Dist. 34 (Harford): Mary-Dulany James (D), former delegate

Dist. 37 (Middle Shore): Johnny Mautz (R), current delegate

Incoming delegates

Dist. 1A (far western Md.): Jim Hinebaugh (R), outgoing Garrett County commissioner

Dist. 1C (Washington & Allegany): Terry Baker (R), outgoing Washington County commissioner

Dist. 2A (Washington & Fredrick): William Valentine (R), retired police officer

Dist. 2B (Washington): Brooke Grossman (D), a top official with Goodwill Industries

Dist. 3 (Frederick): Kris Fair (D), former aide to Karen Young; Karen Simpson (D), a domestic violence and child welfare advocate who works for the Maryland State Retirement Agency

Dist. 4 (Frederick): April Fleming Miller (R), former Frederick County school board member

Dist. 5 (Carroll): Eric Bouchat (R), outgoing Carroll County commissioner; Chris Tomlinson (R), state procurement officer and conservative activist

Dist. 7A (Baltimore County): Ryan Nawrocki (R), small business owner, political operative and former Ehrlich administration official

Dist. 8 (Baltimore County): Nick Allen (D), Army veteran who works for the state Health Dept.

Dist. 9A (Howard & Montgomery): Chao Wu (D), scientist; Natalie Ziegler (D), small business owner

Dist. 10 (Baltimore County): N. Scott Phillips (D), chair of the Baltimore County Planning Board; Jennifer White (D), public health analyst with the Horizon Foundation

Dist. 11A (Baltimore County): Cheryl Pasteur (D), retired teacher and principal and former member of the Baltimore County school board

Dist. 12B (Anne Arundel): Gary Simmons (D), retired police officer

Dist. 13 (Howard): Pam Lanman Guzzone (D), retired federal employee

Dist. 17 (Montgomery): Joe Vogel (D), at 25, one of the youngest people ever elected to the legislature

Dist. 18 (Montgomery): Aaron Kaufman (D), disability rights advocate

Dist. 23 (Prince George’s): Adrian Boafo (D), Bowie city council member; Kym Taylor (D), former aide to Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s)

Dist. 24 (Prince George’s): Tiffany Alston (D), attorney and former delegate

Dist. 26 (Prince George’s): Jamila Woods (D), minister and social worker

Dist. 27A (Prince George’s): Kevin Harris (D), military veteran, community activist

Dist. 27B (Prince George’s & Calvert): Jeffrie Long (D), former aide to Mike Miller, minister

Dist. 29C (St. Mary’s): Todd Morgan (R), outgoing St. Mary’s County commissioner

Dist. 33A (Anne Arundel): Andrew Pruski (D), outgoing Anne Arundel county council member

Dist. 33B (Anne Arundel): Stuart Schmidt (R), real estate investor and broker

Dist. 34A (Harford): Andre Johnson (D), outgoing Harford County council member

Dist. 37B (Middle Shore): Tom Hutchinson (R), businessman

Dist. 42B (Baltimore County & Carroll): Joshua Stonko (R), conservative activist

District 43A (Baltimore City): Elizabeth Embry (D), assistant attorney general, former candidate for mayor and lieutenant governor

Dist. 44B (Baltimore County): Aletheia McCaskill (D), union activist

Dist. 45 (Baltimore City): Jackie Addison (D), community activist; Caylin Young (D), an attorney who is the deputy director of the Baltimore City Office of Equity and Civil Rights

Dist. 46 (Baltimore City): Mark Edelson (D), attorney and civic activist

Dist. 47B (Prince George’s): Deni Taveras (D), outgoing Prince George’s County council member

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.