The Maryland General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Maryland that convenes within the State House in Annapolis. It is a bicameral body: the upper chamber, the Maryland State Senate, has 47 representatives and the lower chamber, the Maryland House of Delegates, has 141 representatives. Members of both houses serve four-year terms. 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.
The General Assembly meets each year for 90 days to act on more than 2,300 bills including the state's annual budget, which it must pass before adjourning sine die. The General Assembly's 438th session convened on January 10, 2018.
The forerunner of the Maryland General Assembly was the colonial institution, an assembly of free Marylanders, which bore the same name. Maryland's foundational charter created a state ruled by the Palatine lord, Lord Baltimore. As ruler, Lord Baltimore owned directly all of the land granted in the charter, and possessed absolute authority over his domain.
However, as elsewhere in English North America, English political institutions were re-created in the colonies, and the Maryland General Assembly fulfilled much the same function as the House of Commons of England. An act was passed providing that:
In addition, the Lord Proprietor could summon any delegates whom he desired.
In some ways the General Assembly was an improvement upon the institutions of the mother country. In 1639, noting that Parliament had not been summoned in England for a decade, the free men of Maryland passed an act to the effect that "assemblies were to be called once in every three years at the least", ensuring that their voices would be regularly heard.
During the American Revolution the colonial Assembly ceased to exist, and was replaced by its modern successor.
Each senator or delegate must be a U.S. citizen and a resident of Maryland for at least one year preceding his or her election. A prospective legislator must have resided in the legislative district the candidate seeks to represent for the six months prior to election. A senator must be at least twenty-five years of age at the time of election and a delegate at least twenty-one. Military officers other than members of the reserves are not eligible for election to the General Assembly.
Each term lasts four years. However, members of the General Assembly are not term-limited. If a vacancy occurs in either house through death, resignation, or disqualification, the Governor of Maryland 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.
The current pattern for distribution of seats began with the legislative apportionment plan of 1972 and has been revised every ten years thereafter according to the results of the decennial U.S. Census. A Constitutional amendment, the plan created 47 legislative districts, many of which cross county boundaries to delineate districts relatively equal in population. Each legislative district elects one senator and three delegates. In most districts, the three delegates are elected at large from the whole district via block voting. However, in some more sparsely populated areas of the state, the districts are divided into subdistricts for the election of delegates: either into three one-delegate subdistricts or one two-delegate subdistrict and one one-delegate subdistrict.
The Senate is led by a President and the House by a Speaker whose respective duties and prerogatives enable them to influence the legislative process significantly. The President and the Speaker appoint the members of most committees and name their chairs and vice-chairs, except in the case of 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. The president pro tempore appoints majority and minority whips and leaders.
Bills are designated by number, in the order of introduction in each house. For example, HB 16 refers to the sixteenth bill introduced in the House of Delegates. The numbering starts afresh each session. The names of the sponsor (and co-sponsors, if any), the legislator who introduced the bill, becomes part of the title. Bills listed as "The Speaker (By Request of Administration)", "The President (By Request of Administration)", "Minority Leader (By Request of Administration)", or "Committee Chair (By Request of Department)" are bills proposed by the Governor and his agencies and are not proposals of the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, the Minority Leader, or the respective Committee Chair. They are listed with the official title of a legislator rather than the Governor due to requirements in the Maryland Constitution.
The legislative procedure, is divided into distinct stages:
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