ANNAPOLIS – The General Assembly’s freshman class is 80 strong – more diverse, more Republican and younger than Maryland lawmakers have been in years.
In sheer numbers, 1995 marks the largest freshman influx since 1967, when a court-mandated restucturing resulted in 119 newcomers – 63 percent of the legislature.
Two major factors – 1992’s redistricting and a Republican- dominated November election – were responsible for this year’s 43 percent turnover.
House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman, R-Howard, leads a caucus of 41, including 25 freshman.
“I don’t think anyone can remember that kind of ratio,” Kittleman said.
“One freshman asked me if they are going to have any say in the caucus. I told them they ARE the caucus.”
Republican numbers swelled by six to 15 in the Senate and by 16 to 41 in the House. That amounts to GOP clout in the Democrat- dominated Maryland General Assembly.
The number of female lawmakers is at an all-time high. While the Senate lost one, the House gained nine for a total of 54 women.
“We have a very diverse group,” said Sen. Dolores G. Kelley, D-Baltimore, who moved up after one term in the House.
And the lawmakers’ average age has dropped: Over one-third are under the age of 40, versus about one-tenth last year. Six delegates are under 30, up from only one in 1994.
About two-thirds of the 61 new delegates have never held a major office. Experienced politicians say the collective inexperience has reduced the number of bills heard, at least for the short term.
“The first month is almost consumed with ceremony, organizational and educational meetings,” said Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany. “The whole process is backed up by necessity, and that will produce less.”
But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, expects his chamber’s workload to be normal.
Of 19 new senators, 17 came from another elected office – ten from the House. “The dynamic here…is totally different,” Miller observed. -30-