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Government & Politics

Ferguson picks Griffith and Feldman to head two newly-reconstituted Senate panels; reshuffles committee rosters

Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City). File photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) unveiled his long-awaited restructuring plan for the upper chamber late Wednesday afternoon, shifting the missions of two standing committees and selecting respected leaders to head them.

Ferguson said the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, with one of the broadest portfolios in the General Assembly, is being restructured “to tackle the state’s most contemporary and pressing challenges” and will be renamed the Senate Committee on Education, Energy, and the Environment (EEE).

Rechristened, EEE will handle all energy and utilities-related legislation, to better reflect the intersection of energy and utilities policy with environment and climate change priorities. The Senate Finance Committee, which previously tackled energy and utility policy, will now have jurisdiction over all health occupations and alcoholic beverages legislation, aligning issues related to public health and business regulation.

As expected, Ferguson has selected Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery), the current vice chair of Finance, to head the EEE panel. Senate President Pro Tem Melony Griffith (D-Prince George’s) is his choice to chair Finance.

The committee realignment in many ways reflects the expertise and priorities of the two new chairmen: Griffith has a deep background in public health, while Feldman has emerged as the Senate’s top policy expert on energy and utilities.

Sen. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George’s).

“After a historic election where voters overwhelmingly approved our legislative agenda, today’s shift in jurisdiction assignments reflects how the chairs, vice chairs, and senators will move forward,” Ferguson said. “The Senate of Maryland is a thoughtful, deliberative, and responsive chamber, and all whom serve must embody that as we engage in passing new legislation in 2023.”

Griffith and Feldman will replace two venerable committee leaders who are leaving the Senate after 28 years of service: Finance Chair Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore County) is retiring, and Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Chair Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) was tapped just Tuesday by Gov.-elect Wes Moore (D) to head the Maryland Energy Administration.

Ferguson said Griffith’s “thoughtfulness, expertise in health policy and business affairs, and ability to build consensus will be a great asset to the committee.” And he hailed Feldman’s “steady leadership” and his “ability to lead on complex legislation and work across the aisle.”

Additionally, Ferguson announced that the vice chair of the Finance Committee will be Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County), who now becomes the Senate’s most senior member with the departures of Pinsky and Kelley. She has served on the Finance Committee since entering the Senate in 2003. Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery), who had been Pinsky’s vice chair, will continue in that role on the newly-reconstituted EEE committee headed by Feldman.

“As the longest serving member of the Senate of Maryland, Senator Klausmeier’s broad experience will provide great stability to the Senate Finance Committee,” Ferguson said. “Additionally, I am confident that Vice-Chair Kagan will continue to bring her passion and expertise to EEE.”

Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery).

With Griffith getting a gavel, her fellow Prince Georgian, Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D), will become president pro tem, the person who presides over the Senate in the president’s absence and is often, but not always, part of the president’s inner circle.

“I know Senator Augustine will bring tremendous energy and a fresh perspective to a position that impacts the policy direction and culture of the Senate of Maryland,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson also named Sen. Pam Beidle (D-Anne Arundel) the new chair of the Executive Nominations Committee, replacing Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick), who is retiring. Beidle had been the panel’s vice chair; that role will go to Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore City) — an early endorser and close ally of Moore’s.

Ferguson said Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), will become the Senate chair of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review, replacing Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel).

“As the new administration begins, these new chairs will serve crucial roles over the next year and beyond,” Ferguson said. “Each of these senators will bring a unique perspective and a responsive style of leadership, and each understands the importance of collaboration.”

Ferguson also reshuffled some of the membership of the four standing committees and made committee assignments for the Senate’s eight newly-elected members. With Pinsky moving on to head MEA, there could be a vacancy in the chamber when the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 11. It will be up to the governor — either Moore or outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan (R), depending on the timing — to appoint a new senator in the 22nd District, following a recommendation from the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee.

Here are the new Senate committee and subcommittee assignments for 2023:

BUDGET AND TAXATION COMMITTEE

Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-Howard), Chair

Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s), Vice Chair

Sen. Jack Bailey (R-St. Mary’s)

Sen. Joanne Benson (D-Prince George’s)

Sen. Paul Corderman (R-Washington)

Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel)

Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County)

Sen. Michael Jackson (D-Prince George’s)

Sen. J.B. Jennings (R-Harford)

Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery)

Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City)

Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County)

Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery)

Notably, there are no freshmen on the panel. Bailey and Hettleman previously served on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, while Jennings and Benson come from the Finance Committee.

Capital Budget Subcommittee

Zucker, Chair

McCray, Vice Chair

Corderman, Elfreth, Jennings, King, Rosapepe

Education, Business, and Administration Subcommittee

King, Chair

Bailey, Benson, Corderman

Health and Human Services Subcommittee

McCray, Chair

Jennings, Hettleman, Zucker

Pensions Subcommittee

Jackson, Chair

Bailey, Benson, Elfreth, Hettleman, Rosapepe, Salling

Public Safety, Transportation, and Environment Subcommittee

Elfreth, Chair

Jackson, Salling, Rosapepe

COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION, ENERGY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery), Chair

Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery), Vice Chair

Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s)

Sen.-elect Ben Brooks (D-Baltimore County)

Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Lower Shore)

Sen. Jason Gallion (R-Harford)

Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D-Howard)

Sen.-elect Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick)

Sen. Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel)

Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City)

Sen. Ron Watson (D-Prince George’s)

Watson moves to the committee from the Judicial Proceedings panel.

FINANCE COMMITTEE

Sen. Melony Griffith (D-Prince George’s), Chair

Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County), Vice chair

Sen. Pam Beidle (D-Anne Arundel)

Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles)

Sen.-elect Dawn Gile (D-Anne Arundel)

Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore City)

Sen. Steve Hershey (R-Upper Shore)

Sen. Ben Kramer (D-Montgomery)

Sen. Clarence Lam (D-Howard)

Sen.-elect Johnny Mautz (R-Middle Shore)

Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll)

Lam and Ellis come to the committee from the old Education, Health and Environmental Affairs panel.

JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS COMMITTEE

Sen. Will Smith (D-Montgomery), Chair

Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery), Vice chair

Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City)

Sen.-elect Bill Folden (R-Frederick)

Sen.-elect Mary-Dulany James (D-Harford)

Sen. Susan Lee (D-Montgomery)

Sen.-elect Mike McKay (R-Allegany)

Sen.-elect C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s)

Sen. Charles Sydnor (D-Baltimore County)

Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County)

New senator from District 22

RULES COMMITTEE

Benson, Chair

Hettleman, Vice chair

Feldman, Ferguson, Griffith, Guzzone, Hershey, Jennings, King, Klausmeier, Ready, Smith

EXECUTIVE NOMINATIONS COMMITTEE

Beidle, Chair

Hayes, Vice chair

Augustine, Carozza, Feldman, Ferguson, Griffith, Guzzone, Hershey, James, King, Lam, Lee, McKay, Ready, Rosapepe, Smith, Sydnor, Zucker