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Maryland Senate president presses Gov. Larry Hogan to fill vacant seat

Maryland Senate president presses Gov. Larry Hogan to fill vacant Senate seat quickly.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller ratcheted up the pressure on Gov. Larry Hogan Friday to expedite the appointment of a new Democratic senator from Montgomery County to fill a vacancy in the 47-member body.

Del. Craig J. Zucker was chosen by the county Democratic Central Committee  a week ago Thursday to fill the seat left empty by the the resignation of Sen. Karen Montgomery. Montgomery announced in December that she would leave in the middle of her second term because of worsening health. Her retirement became official Jan. 1.

Under the Maryland Constitution, when a legislative seat becomes vacant the departing lawmaker's party gets to choose the replacement. The choice is forwarded to the governor, who then has  15 days to make the appointment. The law doesn't permit the governor to substitute another choice.

For the second time in the past week, the Senate chief publicly called on Hogan to install Zucker without running out the string.

"We have an empty seat back there," Miller said from the Senate rostrum. "We'd like to have that seat filled -- not just for any one bill but for all bills."

The "one bill" Miller referred to is one passed by the General Assembly last year allowing released felons to vote before completing parole or probation. Hogan vetoed the measure, but legislative leaders decided this month to attempt an override.

The House voted last week to override the veto after House Speaker Michael E. Busch mustered the minimum 85 votes to do so. Among those voting for the override was Zucker, still a delegate.

With the Senate override count apparently one short due to Montgomery's departure, Miller postponed action -- presumably until he has the necessary 29th vote. Zucker, a second-term delegate, could find himself in the rare position of casting an override vote on the same bill in both chambers.

So far, Hogan has been in no hurry to hasten that day.

Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said he had no idea when the governor will act.

"We appreciate the Senate president's concern but the Governor's Office has a process and we intend to follow it," Mayer said. "We have a vetting process and that is what's under way."

Mayer said any delay has nothing to do with the override vote.

In reply to Miller, Senate Minority Whip Steve Hershey spoke up in Hogan's defense. He said that while the governor had 15 days to make the appointment official, only a week had passed.

Hershey, an Eastern Shore Republican, noted that over that week Hogan has been dealing with one of the largest snowstorms to hit the region in recent history. He suggested that a senatorial appointment could wait.

"It might not be the top item on his list to do," Hershey said.

The governor has until the end of next week to make the appointment.

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