Gov.-elect Larry Hogan and leading Maryland lawmakers pledged Wednesday to work together in a bipartisan spirit this legislative session amid substantial changes in the state capitol this year.
Hogan's inauguration next week will bring the state's first Republican governor in eight years to Maryland, where state lawmakers have been accustomed to Democratic control in state government. While it remains to be seen how the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will work with a Republican governor, expressions of goodwill pervaded opening day in Annapolis.
"I believe we can roll up our sleeves, work together, put aside partisanship and party politics and work together for the people of Maryland who elected all of us,'' Hogan said in brief speech to the House of Delegates.
Hogan met Wednesday morning with U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the senior member of the state's predominantly Democratic congressional delegation, which only has one Republican member: Rep. Andy Harris. Hogan said the two focused on business and job creation, as well as the importance of the federal delegation to work with the new administration in Annapolis.
"We come from different viewpoints, but we feel right now what the voters said is they want more citizenship and less partisanship, and they want more cooperation than political operation, so we're ready to do it,'' Mikulski said.
Hogan has been working on putting his Cabinet in place. He has named some Democrats to positions in his administration. For example, on Tuesday he named Keiffer Mitchell, a former Democratic delegate from Baltimore, as a special adviser with a focus on expanding charter schools in Maryland. Hogan also kept Sam Abed as head of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. Abed has held the position under outgoing Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, was complimentary of Hogan's Cabinet selections, which require Senate confirmation.
"Quite frankly, as I review them, I think that they'll all get through the executive nominations committee, and we're going to work together,'' Miller said.
Hogan has been bracing lawmakers for what he has described as strong medicine for budget problems. He has said he still plans to propose tax cuts, despite a $750 million hole in the budget lawmakers will be working on this session for the next fiscal year. Hogan is scheduled to submit his budget plan late next week. Hogan also campaigned heavily on making the state's business climate better able to create jobs.
"We want to join him in that,'' House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said before introducing Hogan to the House.
The incoming governor is only part of the significant change in the state capitol this year. In the House, 58 new members were elected in November out of 141 total seats. That's an unusually large freshmen class. Two more delegates will be departing soon, one for Hogan's administration and another for a judgeship. The Senate has 11 new members out of 47. Two senators also will be leaving soon for Hogan's administration.
J.B. Jennings, the Senate minority leader, said the Republican caucus is excited for the new session and eager to work across the aisle with Democrats.
"There's no doubt that each and every one of us has the same goal: making the state a better place,'' Jennings, R-Baltimore County, said.