Maryland's Government

Maryland's State Government

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

The Legislative Branch consists of the Maryland General Assembly and its supporting agencies. The General Assembly is the Maryland legislature. Sometimes, the General Assembly is considered the "popular" branch of government, because its members more directly represent the electorate than do officials of either the executive or judiciary. Legislators are elected to both houses of the General Assembly from legislative election districts redrawn every ten years after the federal census to ensure equal representation, based on the concept of "one person, one vote." Geographical size of the districts varies according to population density.

The General Assembly passes all laws necessary for the welfare of the State's citizens and certain laws dealing with the counties and special taxing districts. It also determines how State funds are to be allocated; and adopts amendments to the State Constitution, subject to ratification by the voters. Bills may be introduced in either house. When passed by both houses and signed by the Governor, bills become law. Current laws are compiled in the Annotated Code of Maryland.

Senate & House of Delegates. Like all states but Nebraska, Maryland has a bicameral legislature. The lower house is the House of Delegates and the upper house is the Senate. Representatives to both houses are elected in each gubernatorial election year for four-year terms. Candidates for the House of Delegates must be at least twenty-one years of age and those for the Senate at least twenty-five. The House of Delegates consists of 141 members, while the Senate has 47 members. Both houses convene annually on the second Wednesday in January for a 90-day session. Sessions may be extended by resolution of both houses, and special sessions may be called by the Governor. The Governor also may be petitioned by the Legislature to call a special session.

Committees. To facilitate its work during and between sessions, the General Assembly refers work to various committees. Among these are standing committees which consider and make recommendations regarding proposed legislation. They also include joint committees, often statutory committees, made up of members from both the Senate and House of Delegates.

Legislative Agencies. The legislative branch also encompasses the Department of Legislative Services. The Department assists in the preparation of legislation and maintains information services essential for legislators and the public. Additionally, the Department prepares financial impact statements and monitors fiscal functions for the General Assembly.

Budget. One of the single most important tasks of the General Assembly, and one that requires close coordination and consultation with the Executive Branch, is adoption of the annual budget for Maryland State government. The Constitution specifies that it is the responsibility of the Governor to present the annual budget to the General Assembly within five days of the beginning of each legislative session. The budget of Maryland must be balanced - it must not exceed anticipated revenues (Const., Art., III, sec. 52). This requirement prevents deficit spending and accounts in large part for the excellent bond rating enjoyed by the State. Reflecting the principle of separation of powers within State government, the Governor must incorporate into the budget unchanged requests from the legislative and judicial departments, as well as the estimated expenses required for operating the public schools. Beyond these items and other obligations for certain State debts and the salaries of officials specified in the Constitution, the Governor has considerable discretion in determining what programs and agencies to fund in the budget. The budget process thus is a major policy-shaping tool for the Governor. Supplemental budgets may be submitted by the Governor after adoption of the annual budget, but all requests for such funds must be matched by additional anticipated revenues. ​