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Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch discusses the priorities for Democratic lawmakers in the 2019 Maryland General Assembly session during a news conference in Annapolis on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2019.
Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch discusses the priorities for Democratic lawmakers in the 2019 Maryland General Assembly session during a news conference in Annapolis on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2019. (Pamela Wood / Baltimore Sun)

With the passing of Michael Busch on Sunday, the state loses one of its most prolific legislators, who left a legacy that stretches across three decades.

Busch, who was first elected to the House of Delegates for District 30 in the Annapolis area in 1987 and was the state’s longest-serving House speaker, has been one of the most prominent Democratic lawmakers in the state’s history.

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During his 32-year career as a legislator and 16-year reign as the House speaker, Busch helped draft and pass laws that tackled gun control, same-sex marriage and health care costs.

Here’s a brief history of the former’s speaker’s legacy in the House of Delegates:

Gun Control

In 2018, Busch was a driving force behind new gun control laws that banned bump stocks and implemented the state’s “red flag” law, which allows a judge to order the temporary removal of firearms from gun owners deemed a threat to themselves or others through Extreme Risk Protective Orders. It followed his efforts in 2013 to lead a ban on assault rifles in the state after 20 children and six staff members were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Same-sex Marriage

In 2012, the speaker led the push to legalize same-sex marriage in the state before it became federal law after a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2015.

University of Maryland Medical System

The speaker was also one of the most vocal supporters of legislation that would reform the University of Maryland Medical System after it came to light that Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh had sold $500,000 worth of children’s books to the system while she served on its board of directors and other members had lucrative contracts with the system.

A version of the legislation passed the House of Delegates with a 137-0 vote count and would bar no-bid contracts for the hospital network.

Health Care Costs

Along with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic House Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Busch created a reinsurance program in 2018 that helps stabilize the costs of insurance plans that individuals buy on the state’s health exchange. Under the program, the state decided to keep in place a tax on health insurance carriers that Congress eliminated at the federal level and use that money to help keep costs down in the individual market. Lawmakers voted this year to extend the tax through 2023.

Minimum Wage

This year, he led efforts to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. While he did not vote on the legislation that ultimately overrode Gov. Hogan’s veto of the bill, he voted for the initial legislation authorizing the raise and stated before this year’s General Assembly that it was a goal for the party to pass the legislation. Busch was also a supporter of the 2014 bill, which initially raised the state’s minimum to $10.10 an hour in 2018.

Death Penalty

Busch led the push in 2013 to stop capital punishment in the state, ultimately leading to Maryland’s becoming the 18th state to ban the practice.

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Health Insurance

In the early 2000s, the speaker halted an effort by the CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the state’s largest health insurer, to convert into a for-profit company with an eye to sell the company to California-based WellPoint Health Networks.

Michael E. Busch, a gregarious former coach and high school teacher who became the longest-serving House of Delegates speaker in Maryland history, has died after a short bout with pneumonia. He was 72.

Abortion

A staunch supporter of abortion rights, Busch was still active in the State House on the issue up until February. He had proposed a bill this session that would’ve amend the state’s constitution to enshrine a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy before he withdrew it due to a lack of enthusiasm to amend the constitution prior to the 2020 election.

Education

Busch considered himself a staunch supporter of public schools. In an interview before this year’s General Assembly session, Busch said he would be focused on starting to fund the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission that has been examining the state’s education system. He and Miller led a charge this year to pass a two-year funding plan to kick off the Kirwan work — such as increasing teacher pay and expanding prekindergarten — while the commission looks at a long-term change in the state’s education funding formulas.work’s board members, force all members to resign and mandate an audit of contracting practices.

Audio: Remembering Busch
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