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Incoming Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson sets his leadership team

Sen. Bill Ferguson, who has been nominated to be the next president of the Maryland Senate, announced several Democratic leadership changes on Thursday.
Sen. Bill Ferguson, who has been nominated to be the next president of the Maryland Senate, announced several Democratic leadership changes on Thursday. (Patrick Semansky / AP)

Incoming Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson is setting his leadership team for his first year presiding over the chamber.

Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, announced Thursday a handful of changes in the Democratic leadership structure in a memo to senators. He wrote that he tried to balance considerations of geography, gender, race and senators’ areas of expertise.

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Sen. Guy Guzzone of Howard County will be the chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, which reviews the state’s budget each year. Guzzone replaces Sen. Nancy King of Montgomery County.

King will become majority leader for the Democrats — a position previously held by Guzzone.

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Ferguson also formalized an appointment he previously announced: Sen. William C. Smith Jr. of Montgomery County as chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which has a broad workload of bills related to civil and criminal law, police reform, gun control and other judicial issues.

Smith, who was previously the committee vice chairman, will replace Sen. Bobby Zirkin of Baltimore County, who intends to resign from office in January.

The Senate also will have a new president pro tem, who presides over the Senate when the president is unavailable. That job will go to Sen. Melony Griffith of Prince George’s County.

Griffith takes over from Sen. Kathy Klausmeier of Baltimore County, who will be president pro tem emeritus.

Also, Ferguson said he will ask members to make a change in Senate rules to create a title of Senate president emeritus, which would be granted to current Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

Miller, who has presided over the Senate for more than three decades, plans to step down as president in January. He’s been in treatment for metastatic prostate cancer, and said this fall he no longer had the energy for the time-consuming responsibilities of the presidency.

Democrats have nominated Ferguson to succeed Miller as Senate president, a move that is expected to be made official when the 2020 General Assembly session convenes on Jan. 8.

Miller will be assigned to the the Budget and Taxation Committee.

“With Senate President Miller continuing his service in the Senate, his continued presence and leadership will be vital for the ongoing stability and success of the Senate,” Ferguson wrote in his memo.

The other committee chairs remain unchanged: Sen. Paul Pinsky of Prince George’s County chairing the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Delores Kelley of Baltimore County chairing the Finance Committee, Sen. Joanne Benson of Prince George’s County chairing the Senate Rules Committee and Sen. Ron Young of Frederick County chairing the Executive Nominations Committee.

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