Several Howard County legislators start 2019 session in new Annapolis roles

State Sen. Guy Guzzone took his seat as Maryland’s new senate majority leader and several new members of the Howard County delegation took the oath of office on Wednesday’s opening day of the General Assembly.

The 90-day session got started with the pomp and circumstance customary in Annapolis, as members of both chambers were greeted with a mostly ceremonial agenda.

In the Senate, Guzzone is joined by fellow Democrats Katie Fry Hester and Clarence Lam as senators representing the county.

Across the hall, Republican state delegates Warren E. Miller and Trent Kittleman were sworn-in alongside Democratic colleagues Courtney Watson, Shane Pendergrass, Jessica Feldmark, Eric Ebersole, Jen Terassa, Vanessa Atterbeary and Terri Hill.

For Hill, who represents portions of Howard and Baltimore counties, the start of the session was a bit bittersweet. She said she was disappointed some of her former colleagues in legislature did not return.

Still, she said she is “excited about the new and returning members… and the skill set that they are bringing.”

Hill said she thinks the assembly is “well positioned to deal with the challenges of 2019 and how we move forward in a different kind of political environment.”

Terassa, a newcomer to the House of Delegates but a veteran official with 12 years on the County Council, said she was “excited about being [in Annapolis] and making a difference.”

Fry Hester, an Ellicott City resident who represents District 9 that straddles the Howard-Carroll line, made a family affair of Wednesday’s events. Her husband Bill and daughters Alexa, 9, and Sierra, 13, cheered her on with other family members in the senate gallery.

County Executive Calvin Ball was also in Annapolis for the session’s opening day, joining other area executives including Johnny Olszewski of Baltimore County, Barry Glassman of Harford and Steuart Pittman of Anne Arundel.

Like Pittman and Olszewski, Ball is in his first term as executive. He said he came to Annapolis on opening day to advocate for residents and “celebrate not only our senate majority leader [Guzzone] but our entire delegation.”

Ball said he met Monday with Gov. Larry Hogan in advance of the session, and spoke of partnering on issues including public health, safety, transportation and aid for historic Ellicott City. Specifically, he said they spoke of sustained funding for the old mill town, which has been ravaged by two floods since 2016.

He said the governor “is extremely supportive of all of our efforts to move forward.”

Hogan on Wednesday spoke in both chambers and emphasized the importance of a productive session. Also in attendance was Columbia resident and Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford, as well as Attorney General Brian Frosh and U.S. senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.

Terassa, Fry Hester, Watson and Feldmark are among a wave of female newcomers to the General Assembly this year. In all, 60 legislators are new to their job this year — 43 in the House and 17 in the Senate, although some (such as delegates moving up to the senate) have been in Annapolis before. Women now account for 37.8 percent of legislators, 15 in the senate and 56 in the house.

While opening day was largely about oaths of office and photo opportunities with families, Howard County’s delegation did introduce local bills for this session. Proposals to be considered include placing limits on developer donations to local lawmakers, allowing the County Council to place a fee on plastic bags and guidelines for the election of some school board members to specific districts.

On Saturday delegation members will host a work session back on their home turf, beginning at 10 a.m. at the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House, Ellicott City. The lawmakers will discuss issues including a public facilities surcharge, school redistricting and the county’s adequate public facilities ordinance. The meeting is open to the public, but no public testimony will be accepted.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

This story has been updated to clarify a comment from Del. Terri Hill.

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