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‘Rome is burning’: No longer Senate president, Mike Miller speaking out from chamber floor on Baltimore crime

Senator Thomas V. Mike Miller, who stepped down as Senate President, shared a moment Wednesday with new President Bill Ferguson at the State House in Annapolis.
Senator Thomas V. Mike Miller, who stepped down as Senate President, shared a moment Wednesday with new President Bill Ferguson at the State House in Annapolis. (Joshua McKerrow/Capital Gazette)

Maryland Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller is not in charge anymore of the legislative body he led for 33 years. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop boldly sharing his views from the Senate floor.

Now just a senator, the Calvert County Democrat opined for more than 10 minutes Thursday on everything from Baltimore’s crime problem to how his fellow senators should carry out their duties.

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On the second day of the 441st legislative session, Miller, who stepped down as president to battle cancer, told his colleagues he now reads “social media” and came across a Baltimore Sun article about former Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein lamenting the crime problem in Baltimore.

“We’re sitting here while Rome is burning,” Miller, 77, told his colleagues.

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The city has suffered from more than 300 homicides five years in a row.

“This is a problem that we need to address, honestly and truly. It’s crying out for help," he said. "We need to focus on it.”

Miller implied many politicians from the city were not properly focused on fighting crime, noting several are seeking higher office or have opposed tough-on-crime policies.

“You have one mayor waiting to be sentenced. You have people running for Congress. You have people running for the mayor’s office. You have a prosecutor who has different priorities in Baltimore City,” Miller said. “We’re elected officials and we need to address it.”

He said he hoped the Democrat-controlled legislature would work with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to better fight crime.

“Mr. Rosenstein was right on the mark when he said he was able to do it. And we’re able to do it, too, if we work with the governor to make things happen,” Miller said.

He then began to chide fellow lawmakers, as he often did as Senate president, to file their bills earlier. Miller said there was no good reason why legislation to legalize sports betting in Maryland hadn’t been filed already.

“We should have the bill,” he said. “We need to get our prefiled bills in.”

Miller then treated colleagues to a “brief history of the Senate.”

“Somebody will say to me, ‘How can you go from being president of the Maryland Senate back to being a member of the Senate?’ You have to understand history,” Miller said. “The Senate came from the governor’s council ― the best and brightest people in the state of Maryland … Even James Madison, he loved it.”

When he was finished, new Senate President Bill Ferguson, who was 3 years old when Miller became Senate president, offered a polite correction.

"We always appreciate the senator’s observations,” Ferguson, a Democrat, said. “Just to be clear there are two pieces of legislation related to sports betting that have already been introduced.”

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And Sen. Antonio Hayes of Baltimore encouraged lawmakers to contact legislators from the city before filing any bills related to Baltimore crime.

“We recognize we have some challenges in the city,” Hayes, a Democrat, said. “We encourage each and every one of you to reach out to the members of the Baltimore City Senate delegation if you are interested in helping our city.”

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