Where do you want to fly?
ANNAPOLIS — Wednesday was a busy and symbolic day in the state capital as the new General Assembly gathered for the first time.
Both chambers started the 2019 session with lawmakers elected in November taking the oath of office — many for the first time. Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, likely will be sworn in next week as he was absent Wednesday, recovering from knee surgery.
Health care and health insurance likely will get a lot of attention during the 90-day session. Senate President Mike Miller, D-Prince George’s/Charles/Calvert, surprised reporters Wednesday by highlighting that fact with news that he’ll make an announcement Thursday about his own health.
Miller, who has been using a cane to help him walk, insisted that he planned to be at the helm “for the long haul.”
Lawmakers again chose Miller as Senate president and Mike Busch, D-Anne Arundel, as House speaker.
Family members of other legislators crowded the floors and took photos during the proceedings. Gov. Larry Hogan and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., briefly visited both chambers urging cooperation in the coming weeks as lawmakers churn their way through thousands of anticipated bills.
“Obviously, a lot of family and friends have come to witness the House of Delegates be sworn in,” said Del. Mike McKay, R-Washington/Allegany.
He said he was impressed with the “very, very positive tone of the governor, the tone of the speaker, the tone of the senator that we could work together to move Maryland forward in a direction that respects all.”
“My viewpoint was similar,” Del. William Wivell, R-Washington, said. “It seems like on opening day, we always talk about the bipartisanship, and hopefully that does carry through for the 90-day session, so we respect each other’s opinions. As the speaker said, we may not always agree, but hopefully, they are receptive to everyone’s bills that have been introduced, regardless of whether you have the ‘R’ or the ‘D’ behind your name.”
Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, didn’t quite feel the happy vibes. Busch’s remarks, he said, were unusually partisan for a first-day address, highlighting traditionally Democratic items such as abortion rights, raising the minimum wage and other issues expected to come up this year.
“Especially the first day of a four-year cycle, it’s normally less partisan than what I saw today,” Parrott said.
Del. Paul Corderman, R-Washington, served as an appointee during the last legislative session. On Wednesday, he took office for a full four-year term with his wife Kerri, daughter Samantha and a political mentor on hand — former Washington County Del. Paul Muldowney and his wife, Harriet.
Corderman said he had a “fantastic day.”
“It was great to be back here in Annapolis, great to have all the new legislators here, the returning legislators,” he said. “It was great to have Gov. Hogan here, as well. I’m looking forward to getting the session underway.”
Over in the Senate, Sen. George Edwards, R-Washington/Allegany/Garrett, said he enjoyed the “very nice ceremony.”
“It’s the first session of the new term,” he said. “You’ve got 17 new members (of the Senate), which is probably more than usual. And the president introduced everybody; it was very cordial.”
But “that’ll change shortly,” he quipped, “once we get into the issues … but it was a good way to start off.”
The bipartisanship most embraced on Wednesday will probably “ebb and flow as those topics become a little more heated and the debate grows,” McKay said. “I only hope that the debates don’t become personal, because when they do become personal, it’s not good for the state of Maryland [or] the residents.”
The real work will begin Thursday, as Washington County’s delegation meets in the morning to choose leadership for the new term and start mapping out a plan for local issues with the county commissioners’ president, Jeff Cline.
Standing committees in both the Senate and the House also will conduct their first meetings Thursday.
Next week, Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford will be inaugurated for the second time. A choir from Barbara Ingram School for the Arts is slated to perform during the pre-inauguration festivities Wednesday morning. The ceremony begins at noon.
Also next week, Hogan is expected to release budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2020, which begins July 1.
His annual State of the State address is slated for Jan. 30 in the House chamber.