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State Sen. Will Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat, speaks during a press conference earlier this year. He's been named chairman of the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee.
State Sen. Will Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat, speaks during a press conference earlier this year. He's been named chairman of the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee. (Pamela Wood / The Baltimore Sun)

Sen. William C. Smith Jr. of Montgomery County will lead the Maryland Senate’s high-profile judicial committee, the incoming Senate president announced Wednesday.

Speaking at a fundraiser for Smith, Sen. Bill Ferguson — a Baltimore Democrat who has been nominated to become Senate president in January — said Smith was the “presumptive” chairman.

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Smith will replace Baltimore County Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Democrat who has led the Judicial Proceedings Committee for five years and intends to retire from the Senate in January.

Smith, also a Democrat, currently holds the position of vice-chairman of Judicial Proceedings. The committee reviews legislation related to criminal and civil law, police reform, gun control and other issues.

Smith spent six months this year in Afghanistan on a deployment with the U.S. Navy Reserves. He returned this fall with what he said was a renewed passion for public service. He is the Senate chairman of the Maryland General Assembly’s Veterans Caucus.

The move is the first leadership change announced by Ferguson since the Senate’s Democrats nominated him this fall to be the next Senate president. The current Senate president, Thomas V. Mike Miller, plans to give up his leadership post as he continues treatment for cancer. Miller, who plans to remain as a senator, was not at the fundraiser. He attended a University of Maryland men’s basketball game.

Ferguson’s announcement was first reported by the Maryland Matters news website.

The next 90-day General Assembly session is scheduled to start Jan. 8.

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