40 /Legislature Maryland Manual 1994-1995
Maryland's Legislature. The lawmaking powers of the State are vested in the General Assembly, which
consists of two separate branches — the Senate and the House of Delegates (Const., Art. III, sec. 1). The
General Assembly has 188 members, with 47 Senators and 141 Delegates. One Senator and three
Delegates are elected from each of the 47 legislative election districts. After every decennial census,
legislative district boundaries are redrawn to conform to the principle of one person/one vote.
Requirements of Office. Each Senator or Delegate must be a citizen of Maryland and a resident for at
least one year preceding the date of election. A prospective legislator must have resided for the six months
prior to election in the legislative district the candidate seeks to represent. A Senator must be at least
twenty-five years of age at the time of election and a Delegate at least twenty-one. Persons elected to or
holding a civil or military office other than as a member of a reserve component under the federal or State
government are not eligible for election to the General Assembly (Const., Art. III, secs. 9, 10, 11). All
seats in the General Assembly are up for election every four years. (The next general election will be held
Terms. The term of each Senator and Delegate is four years from the second Wednesday of January
following the date of election (Const., Art. III, sec. 6). No limit is placed on the number of terms a legislator
may serve. If a vacancy occurs in either house through death, resignation, or disqualification, the Governor
appoints a replacement whose name is submitted by the State Central Committee of the same political
party as the legislator whose seat is to be filled. All persons so appointed serve for the unexpired portion
of the term (Const., Art. III, sec. 13).
Purpose and Powers. The purpose of the General Assembly is to pass laws necessary for the welfare ot
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 judicial decisions.
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. III, secs. 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.
Leadership. 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 Tem, who in turn presides over the election of the President of
the Senate. The President Pro Tem 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 Tem 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
significantly. The President and the Speaker appoint the 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.
Sessions. Since 1971, the General Assembly has convened annually on the second Wednesday in January.
Sessions are held in the Senate and House chambers of the State House in Annapolis. 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. III, sec. 14). No single
special session, however, may last longer than thirty days. Special sessions were constitutionally provided