party as the legislator whose seat is to be filled. All persons so appointed serve for the unexpired portion
of the term (Const., Art. Ill, sec. 13).
Each house elects its own officers, judges the qualifications and election of its own members, establishes
rules for the conduct of its business, and may punish or expel its own members. Legislators, however, are
not liable in civil or criminal actions for words spoken in debate (Const.,Art. Ill, sees. 18,19).The Senate
and the House of Delegates each appoint staff such as desk officers. The Secretary of the Senate and the
Chief Clerk of the House are the highest ranking staff members in their respective chambers.
On the first day of a regular legislative session, the Secretary of the Senate calls the roll and conducts
the election of a President Pro Tern, who in turn presides over the election of the President of the Senate.
The President Pro Tern administers the oath of office to the President and thereafter carries out any duties
assigned by the President. In the House of Delegates, the Chief Clerk calls the roll and proceeds with the
organization of the House. A Speaker Pro Tern is elected first, who presides over the election of the Speaker
of the House and administers the Speaker's oath of office.
The Senate President and House Speaker each appoint a Majority Leader with whom they consult on
the selection of a Majority Whip and Deputy Majority Leader. In both House and Senate, the political
party having fewer seats chooses a Minority Leader and a Minority Whip.
Duties and prerogatives of the President and Speaker enable them to influence the legislative process
significandy. The President and the Speaker appoint rhe members of standing committees, joint commit-
tees, conference committees, and select committees. They designate the chairperson and vice-chairperson
of all committees, except for the Joint Committee on Investigation whose members elect their own officers.
The President and Speaker preside over the daily sessions of their respective chambers, maintaining
decorum and deciding points of order. As legislation is introduced, they assign it to a standing committee
for consideration and a public hearing.
Since 1971, the General Assembly has convened annually on the second Wednesday in January
Normally sessions do not exceed ninety consecutive days. The General Assembly may extend its sessions
an additional thirty days by resolution passed by three-fifths vote of the membership in each house. The
Governor is the only person with the power to call the legislature into special session and in fact must do
so on petition of a majority of the elected membership of each house (Const., Art. II, sec. 16; Art. Ill,
sec. 14). No single special session, however, may last longer than thirty days. Special sessions were
constitutionally provided for at a time when the General Assembly convened every two years instead of
annually but as recently as 1985, the Governor called the General Assembly into special session twice.
The Governor cannot adjourn the General Assembly bur before any proposed adjournment sine die, the
General Assembly must ask if the Governor wishes to make any further communications to either house
(Senate Rule 111; House Rule 111). Both houses must agree to adjourn.
The purpose of the General Assembly is to pass taws necessary for the welfare of the State. The
legislature may establish executive departments as needed for the efficient operation of State government
and may create special taxing districts or areas within the State to administer a special function or functions.
In accordance with the Constitutions of Maryland and of the United States, the General Assembly may
levy taxes. It may propose State Constitutional amendments, which must be passed by three-fifths of the
total membership of each house and submitted to the voters for ratification at the next general election
after passage. Legislative authority is limited only by the State Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, and
The General Assembly spends considerable rime dealing with local issues, ordinances, and expenditures.
The Constitution adopted in 1867 kept the power to pass public local laws vested in the General Assembly
In essence, this gave control of county government to county delegations in the General Assembly Since
1948, however, thirteen counties and Baltimore City have opted for some form of home rule, allowing
the General Assembly a more statewide focus. The Municipal Home Rule Amendment of 1954 virtually
prohibits the General Assembly from passing local legislation for incorporated cities and towns, although
the Assembly retains its power Co pass a general statewide law thacaffeccs them (Const., Art. XI-E). Power
to regulate elections and to license and regulate the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, however,
is reserved to the General Assembly, and home rule counties are limited to exercising the powers
enumerated in the Express Powers Act (Code 1957, Art. 25A, sec. 5).
Local bills passed by the General Assembly may include a referendum provision that requires submission
of the bill to voter approval. With the exception of a proposed amendment to the Constitution, a statewide
bill may not be submitted by the General Assembly to referendum, because such an action has been
construed by the courts to constitute a delegation of the legislature's lawmaking powers. Most statewide
bills (except appropriations) and any local bill that concerns a county or Baltimore City, however, may be