Md. lawmakers will choose new House speaker in special session

Maryland lawmakers will head back to Annapolis for a special session May 1 to choose a new speaker for the House of Delegates.

Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement after getting a request from legislative leaders just hours after holding a bill signing.

Michael Busch, who was the longest-serving House speaker in Maryland history, died April 7 after being treated for pneumonia. He was 72 years old.

In his announcement, Hogan said, “It is my solemn duty to call a special session of the General Assembly in order to elect a successor to Speaker Busch.”

Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones signed 195 bills into law in the first of several signing ceremonies.

Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones said she had written to Hogan to request the special session. Jones, from Baltimore County, is among three House delegates running to step into the role.

Jones filled in for Busch while he was being treated for pneumonia. He died a day before the end of the latest General Assembly session.

During the bill signing ceremony, Jones thanked her colleagues for supporting the work of the House during Busch’s absence and on the last day of the session, when lawmakers were trying to wrap up the session while reeling from news of the speaker’s death.

Asked about the race to fill Busch’s speakership, Jones said that she had been at Busch’s side as speaker pro tem for 16 year. “I learned from the best,” she said, adding that she and Busch shared similar philosophies on leadership.

If elected to the office of speaker, Jones said, she would do as Busch did, looking to bring out the talents of each member of the House, and added that she didn’t subscribe to a “my way or the highway” approach.

Referring to the 141 members of the House, Jones said “Some of them are real quiet; some, they talk all the time and you know what they’re going to say, but each one of them has something that they can contribute to make a success of the House.”

Del. Maggie McIntosh, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, is also hoping to become speaker, as is Del. Dereck Davis, chair of the House Economic Matters Committee.

As she sat at a long, polished table in the State House, Jones said of Busch, “I’m sure he’s listening up there, someplace.” Then she added “Let’s sign some bills!”

What bills were signed

Thursday morning, Hogan led off the bill-signing ceremony in the State House by signing legislation that had been a priority for Speaker Busch: overhauling the structure and operations of the University of Maryland Medical System and declaring June 28 Press Freedom Day in honor of the Capital Gazette, where five staff members were killed last year.

Despite the horrific events of that day, the Capital Gazette staff put out a paper covering the mass shooting that took the lives of their colleagues.

Other bills signed into law included legislation to increase penalties for anyone convicted of drunk or drugged driving, bills that penalize anyone who threatens to commit a hate crime, and a bill known as Grace’s Law 2.0.

That bill is the first in the country to punish anyone who uses social media to try to cause a minor to take their own life. It includes a possible 10-year jail term for cyber bullying and is named in honor of Grace McComas, the 15-year-old Howard County girl who took her own life on Easter Sunday 2012 after she was targeted by cyberbullies.

See the full list of the bills signed into law, courtesy of the governor’s office.

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