ANNAPOLIS – Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly filled key leadership slots this week as freshman legislators began to get ready for the opening of a 2007 session little more than six weeks away.
On Monday, Senate Democrats chose a new majority leader, Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, of Baltimore County. He replaces Nathaniel J. McFadden, of Baltimore, who will become president pro tempore, meaning he assumes leadership of the Senate whenever President Thomas V. Mike Miller is not present.
McFadden, who was first elected in 1994, is set become the first African-American to fill that post in the chamber’s history.
In the House, meanwhile, Del. Talmadge Branch, D-Baltimore, was appointed Tuesday to the number three leadership job of majority whip, filling a position vacated by Lt. Gov.-elect Anthony Brown. Both Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, and Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve, D-Montgomery, retained their posts.
Del. James E. Proctor, D-Prince George’s, is set to replace Branch as vice-chair of the appropriations committee.
Busch said Branch, who like Brown is African-American, was tapped for his wealth of legislative experience and institutional knowledge of the legislative process.
“That combination of skills, knowledge and institutional history give him a strong foundation to fulfill his role as majority whip,” he said. “He has the ability to interact very well with his colleagues.”
Branch, a 12-year veteran of the House, said he had no specific agenda in mind but expected the Assembly to get “a lot more done” with fellow Democrat Martin O’Malley taking over as governor in January.
With Democrats in control of both the executive and legislative branches, “things just run a lot more smoothly, as opposed to all the fighting and the posturing,” he said.
Busch announced the appointments as the Assembly’s newly elected freshman legislators showed up for the first half of a two-day orientation session in Annapolis.
Jeff Waldstreicher, a Montgomery County Democrat elected from the 18th District, said he woke up excited, but also spent much of the day filling out tax forms and touring hallways. “Like anyone on the first day of work,” he said.
As he walked out of a PowerPoint presentation on the State House computer system held in the House chambers, he noted the age of the building and the contradiction of being a newcomer in an old tradition.
Amid a buzz of conversation in the 227-year-old building’s main hall, Waldstreicher said: “It’s a bizarre combination of the mundane and the awe-inspiring.” The 2007 legislative session is scheduled to convene at noon on Jan. 10.