Busch Makes Shifts in Md. Committee Assignments
Speaker Michael E. Busch has shuffled committee membership in the House of Delegates, ruffling some feathers along the way.
In all, Busch shifted nine members, an unusually high number of transfers for a session that has not followed an election. The moves affect all six standing committees of the House.
Most affected was the Ways and Means Committee, which traded three Republicans with minority-party members of other committees. The panel lost Dels. Susan W. Krebs (R-Carroll), J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore County) and Andrew A. Serafini (R-Washington)--and gained Dels. Joseph C. Boteler III (R-Baltimore County), LeRoy E. Myers Jr. (R-Washington) and Christopher B. Shank (R-Washington).
Shank, who also serves as the minority whip, said he was unhappy that Busch did not consult more with Republicans before making the moves. He noted he put up no fight over his own shift from the Judiciary Committee but said Krebs was told of her move only this morning.
"Because I was so accommodating with the speaker, I'm very disappointed that despite all the platitudes about bipartisanship, that one of our most senior members was treated that way," Shank said. "We can talk the talk about bipartisanship all we want, but I think it's important to walk the walk."
Even members who were not moved were displeased. Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil) and Del. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore) both said they had been told they would be moved off of the Judiciary Committee but Busch ultimately changed his mind.
Carter, who strongly opposed a bill to expand the state's DNA database to include samples taken after arrest for violent crimes that the speaker backed, said it was a groundswell of public support for her role on the committee forced Busch to change his mind.
"There was a sense of musical chairs that they can move people where they want," she said. "There is a kind of zero tolerance at times for any interference with leadership initiatives."
The committee has been considered a high hurdle for bills targeting crime because it is stacked with trial lawyers.
Smigiel said he and Carter, though members of opposing parties, had supported each other's bid to retain their seats. He said Busch told complained last year that lawyers on the committee were asking too many tough questions of government employees testifying about bills.
"I told him, 'milk and cookies, sir--we'll offer them milk and cookies,'" he said.
Alexandra Hughes, a spokeswoman for Busch, said the speaker met with Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert), the minority leader, several times throughout his decision-making process about possible changes, including once this morning. She said the Krebs move was motivated in part by the need to add another Republican to the Health and Government Operations committee.
"The Speaker felt it was important to have senior members of the minority party on each committee," she said. She noted there had been lot of speculation through the process about moves.
"At the end of the day, it's the speaker's prerogative to assign delegates to committee and it's a responsibility he takes very seriously," she said. "He wants to ensure geographic balance, party balance and racial and gender balance."
January 16, 2009; 2:29 PM ET
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