New Md. Senate committee chairs announced, plus change in panels’ focus

December 21, 2022

The Daily Record

Sen. Melony Griffith, D-Prince George’s, will become chair of the Senate Finance Committee in the 2023 General Assembly session. (AP File Photo/Julio Cortez)

ANNAPOLIS — Changes are coming to the Maryland Senate with the announcement of new leadership positions and the rebranding of a committee that includes adjustments in the types of bills some panels will handle.

The announcement Wednesday by Senate President Bill Ferguson comes one day after Gov.-elect Wes Moore tapped a Senate leader to serve in his administration. The changes announced set the Senate policy committees for now, barring other possible announcements of appointments by the incoming Democratic executive.

“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,” said Ferguson. “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.”

The Senate Education Health and Environmental Matters Committee will be rebranded as the Education, Energy and Environment Committee. The panel will be chaired by Sen. Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery.

“I look forward to the steady leadership that Senator Feldman will undoubtedly bring to the newly configured EEE committee,” said Ferguson. “As the vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Feldman has demonstrated the ability to lead on complex legislation and work across the aisle.”

Feldman takes over for Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s. Pinsky on Tuesday was named the new director of the Maryland Energy Administration by incoming Governor Moore.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, will continue in her role as vice chair in the new committee.

The rebranding of the committee, which Senate President Bill Ferguson referred to using the shorthand title “E3,” will shed its work on some health issues, transferring those bills to Finance, which currently handles most insurance related bills. The new committee will also transfer alcohol-related bills to Finance which also handles cannabis-related legislation that doesn’t touch on criminal justice issues. In its place, the committee will take on energy and utility-related legislation.

Feldman, who was steeped in the subject matters handled in Finance, was seen as a logical successor to the committee’s current chair, Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore.

Ferguson said Feldman’s move along with some of the subject matter changes, coupled with Kagan’s knowledge of legacy legislation handled by the new committee create more of a balanced ticket approach.

Senate Finance will also get a new chairwoman. Sen. Melony Griffith, D-Prince George’s, will take over for Kelley, who is retiring at the end of this term. Griffith takes over a committee she had never served on previously.

“I am thrilled that Senator Griffith will lead the Senate Finance Committee,” Ferguson said. “Her thoughtfulness, expertise in health policy and business affairs, and ability to build consensus will be a great asset to the committee.”

Joining Griffith in leading the committee is Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, D-Baltimore County. Klausmeier, who was elected in November to her sixth term, becomes the new vice chair of a committee she has served on since joining the Senate in 2003.

Republican losses of two seats in the Senate required Ferguson to redistribute the now 13 minority party members.

Nearly one-fourth of Senate Republicans will be assigned to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. At 13 members, it is the largest of the four standing committees. Republican Sens. J.B. Jennings, Harford County, and Jack Bailey, St. Mary’s, come to the committee from assignments in the Finance and Judicial Proceedings Committees respectively.

The remaining three committees, all of whom have 11 members each, will have three Republicans.