District 39 Sen. Nancy King Named To Chair Powerful Committee in Annapolis

Original Source | By: BY LOUIS PECK

For the second time this week, a veteran woman legislator from Montgomery County has been tapped for a top position in the Maryland General Assembly.

District 39 Sen. Nancy King was named Thursday to chair the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee—often regarded as that chamber’s most influential panel—by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. King’s appointment follows District 15 Del. Kathleen Dumais’ elevation to majority leader by House Speaker Michael Busch late Wednesday.

King was not the only Montgomery County legislator to get a promotion from Miller: District 15 Sen. Brian Feldman was appointed vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and District 20 Sen. Will Smith was named vice chair of the Judicial Proceedings panel.

The appointments are contingent on the Senate remaining in Democratic hands in this November’s election. But there is little question that the party will retain the majority; Republican efforts this year are focused on picking up a few seats in an effort to chip away at the Democrats’ current 33-14 veto-proof majority.

King’s appointment makes her head of a committee with jurisdiction over the state’s annual operating and capital budgets, as well as education financing. The latter issue is expected to be at the forefront when the next session of the Maryland General Assembly convenes in January, as legislators consider recommendations by the so-called Kirwan commission to modify funding formulas for state aid to education.

There has been concern that Montgomery County could face a battle to maintain its current level of state aid as the commission, chaired by former University of Maryland System Chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan, attempts to increase funding to schools in less affluent areas. In a telephone interview Friday, King—who sits on the Kirwan commission—said she shares those concerns.

While noting the commission is “just now really getting into the funding formulas” that will be proposed during the 2019 session, she added, “It’s really going to be a challenge to fund all that we want to fund, and find a funding source to do it.”

King, a Montgomery Village resident, also declared, “Montgomery County cannot go home with less money.”

King, who was unopposed in last month’s Democratic primary, is a prohibitive favorite in November to win another term in District 39, which extends from Gaithersburg to Clarksburg and includes Germantown as well as Montgomery Village.

As chair of the Budget and Taxation panel, she will succeed Sen. Edward Kasemeyer of Howard County, who announced his retirement earlier this year. Named as vice chair of the committee by Miller was Sen. Bill Ferguson of Baltimore city, who will assume the slot held for the past four years by District 18 Sen. Richard Madaleno of Kensington. Madaleno gave up his Senate seat to make an unsuccessful bid for governor in the June 26 primary.

King, who has chaired Montgomery County’s eight-member Senate delegation for the past four years, was first elected to the General Assembly in 2002 as a member of the House of Delegates. She moved to the Senate in 2007, and, with Madaleno’s departure, will become the longest serving member of the county’s Senate contingent. King, 68, began her political career by winning election to the Montgomery County Board of Education in 1994.

She has served on the Budget and Taxation Committee for more than a decade, and, since 2011, has chaired the panel’s Education, Business and Administration Subcommittee. In a letter to members of the Senate dated Thursday, Miller lauded her as “widely recognized as one of the Senate’s leading voices for women and children.”

King said Friday her committee will hold hearings prior to the start of the 2019 General Assembly session on the issue of online sales taxes; a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month is expected to increase pressure on states to collect such taxes even if a retailer does not have a physical presence in a given state.

Also on her committee’s agenda is another matter affected by a recent Supreme Court ruling: sports betting. King said she anticipates there will be a question on the November 2020 ballot concerning this issue.

But she acknowledged that the forthcoming recommendations of the Kirwan commission are “probably going to be the toughest issue.” She said the prospect of cuts in state education funding to Montgomery County and several other jurisdictions “is something that’s been on all of our minds” since the late 2016 release of a study for the Maryland Department of Education by the consulting firm of Augenblick, Palaich and Associates.

“In my mind, that study should have been done after the Kirwan commission acted,” King said. “That report talked about [how] we should be getting the $36 million less [annually] because of the wealth in Montgomery County. But that’s not realistic.

“Yes, we have a lot of wealthy people, but they’re not all sitting there and writing checks to the school system. And … if you look at the number of poor people compared to the rest of the state, we’re right up there. So all that has to be looked at in the funding formula.”

Asked if she would utilize her new position to protect Montgomery County’s interests in the forthcoming debate, King replied: “I will be looking at Montgomery County, but I will be looking at all the counties. I just think there’s got to be a fair way to do this.”

But she added pointedly, “There are eight senators and 24 delegates from Montgomery County—they not only need our vote on what happens with Kirwan, they’re going to need our votes on a whole lot of things.”

King’s elevation to the Budget and Taxation chair is expected to help compensate for the loss of seniority in the Montgomery County delegation in Annapolis in recent years.

She becomes the first county senator to chair a full committee since then-Sen. Brian Frosh of Chevy Chase left the helm of the Judicial Proceedings Committee after being elected attorney general in 2014. Frosh was followed out the door by other senior members, including Sen. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park—elected to Congress in 2016—and Madaleno this year.

Madaleno announced his gubernatorial bid before the current Budget and Taxation panel chair, Kasemeyer, announced his retirement. If Madaleno, an acknowledged budget expert, had sought re-election, there are some who believe he could have ended up becoming chairman of that committee. He and King differ little on policy, but the lower-key King offers a contrast in style to the outspoken, sharp-tongued Madaleno.

King also has been considered close to Miller, the longest-serving Senate president in the country—and in Maryland history. Had Madaleno stayed, several sources have suggested his ascension to the chairmanship might have been hampered by a lack of close ties to Miller and several other key senators.

The unexpected defeat in last month’s primary of another influential senator, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas “Mac” Middleton of Charles County, created an opening for Feldman, a Potomac resident who arrived in the Senate in 2013 after first being elected to the House of Delegates in 2002.

Miller named Sen. Delores Kelley of Baltimore County, who has been in the Senate for a quarter of a century, as Middleton’s successor on the Finance panel, with Feldman, 57, named vice chair. The panel has a jurisdiction ranging from financial institutions to health policy to transportation. In his letter to fellow senators, Miller praised Feldman as “having distinguished himself in the regional push to stabilize and reform the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority, working closely with business leaders and transportation advocates to pass an historic bill this year.”

Kelley leaves her slot as vice chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and will be replaced by Smith—whose appointment caps a swift rise from his initial election to the House of Delegates in 2014. Smith, 36, was appointed to fill Raskin’s vacant Senate seat after the latter’s election to Congress, and—like Feldman—is all but certain to win re-election in November. Miller’s letter lauded Smith as “an intellectual powerhouse in the tradition of great Montgomery County senators like Brian Frosh, Jamie Raskin and Chris Van Hollen.” Now-U.S. Sen. Van Hollen served for eight years in the state Senate before moving to Congress.

Smith, the first African-American to represent Montgomery County in the Maryland Senate, will have the No. 2 slot on the Judicial Proceedings panel behind Sen. Bobby Zirkin of Baltimore County. Zirkin was initially named to head that panel four years ago after Miller passed over another senator who was then seeking that chairmanship—Raskin.


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