The Gangster Assembly

On one of the most surreal Sine Die days in Maryland history, what happened to Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith might be the most surreal.

House of Delegates leadership railroaded through the House yesterday a constitutional amendment that strips the Governor of exclusive authority over the State Budget process. We can (and will) talk about the merits of the amendment for the next several months, but the process in which it was passed is absolutely absurd. The bill was adopted by the House without being heard in committee.

Delegate Valentine-Smith, a Democrat, joined Republicans in objecting to the bill. You won’t believe what happened next.

Seconds later, as the House prepared to recess for half an hour, Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) called for a quick vote on an appointment: Del. Michael A. Jackson (D-Prince George’s), she indicated without explanation, would be the new House chairman of the legislature’s Spending Affordability Committee, which studies revenue projections and the state economy.

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The previous committee chair: Valentino-Smith.

“Have you ever seen them strip a man [of a leadership position]?” Valentino-Smith asked a reporter minutes after the vote. “I’m disappointed. I have never seen that type of retribution taken against someone who has spoken out against a committee.”

Jeremy Baker, a spokesman for Jones, said the speaker’s office had no comment.

A handful of House members privately referred to the removal of Valentino-Smith from the Spending Affordability Committee as “gangster.”

Valentine-Smith is right to a degree. Mike Busch and Mike Miller did strip committee leadership from chairs and vice-chairs, both men and women, during their times. However, they didn’t quite do it this way. It is unprecedented, even absurd, to strip a Delegate of their committee chairmanship in the middle of a House session, on Sine Die, during a mad rush to pass legislation and go home.

It’s surreal. It’s bizarre. But honestly, it really encapsulates what the last week in the General Assembly has been all about. The House members quoted in the article probably meant that Jones stripping the chairmanship and calling in “gangster” as a compliment. However, it’s an apt description for how Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson have been running their chambers.  Running absolutely roughshod over any and all opposition. Doing whatever they want to do, regardless of whether or not it benefits the public. Ignoring everything going on around them to focus on what’s best for their business. And make sure to take care of the family, in this case family meaning left-wing interest groups, regardless of the consequences

For a legislative leadership ignoring a public health emergency, keeping legislators and the public in danger, for passing legislation that is non-essential during a time the public is shut of out the debate, perhaps we should be calling the General Assembly under Bill Ferguson and Adrienne Jones the Gangster Assembly instead.

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