Maryland’s General Assembly session ended on an unsettled note Monday, as a Republican delegate held up the proceedings for several minutes, hollering at House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones for not allowing members to explain their votes.
With roughly 10 minutes before the planned midnight adjournment, Jones rejected the pleas of Republicans attempting to speak before a final vote on a bill prohibiting police officers from searching people based solely on the smell of cannabis.
Over repeated calls of “Madam Speaker” to get her attention, Jones said: “The clerk will call the roll.”
“I’d like to explain my vote,” a male Republican said.
“Yes, but I also know what you’re doing,” Jones said.
A shouting match erupted between Republicans in the back of the House chamber who chose the last minutes of the last floor session to pick a fight over the rules with the speaker.
Eventually Del. Nic Kipke, an Anne Arundel County Republican, rose to challenge the speaker’s decision. His tie loosened and top button undone, he shouted into his microphone.
“We have decorum. We have decorum in the chamber,” Kipke said.
“Speaker’s discretion, and that’s what my discretion is,” Jones said.
Jones banged the gavel and moved on.
“You need to sit down, Madam Speaker,” Kipke shouted at one point.
“I will not sit down,” Jones responded.
“It doesn’t work that way! The rules do not allow you to operate that way. You cannot just roll call the minority party!” Kipke said. “The speaker at 11:55 is ignoring members of the floor and I challenge the speaker.”
The exchange continued, becoming increasingly heated and involving more people for another few minutes until Del. Jason Buckel, the Republican minority leader, called for members of his party to follow him out of the chamber. Roughly a dozen followed and stood near the doorway.
The back-and-forth disrupted the proceedings for nearly seven minutes, with Kipke becoming increasingly agitated and Democrats attempting to explain the rules and argue that the speaker was acting within her power.
The official rules for the House of Delegates say that a vote “may be explained by that member rising for that purpose for not more than two minutes.”
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins, a former parliamentarian, stood during the incident to emphasize that the rule says “may,” not “shall” — the speaker has the discretion to allow vote explanations or not.
”Please let’s move forward. We have four more minutes. I urge us to all please take a deep breath and move on to the next bill,” said Wilkins, a Montgomery County Democrat.
The official rules for the House of Delegates declare that the speaker “shall preserve order and decorum” in the chamber, “including preventing dilatory or frivolous conduct from obstructing the business of the House.” Further, the rules also state: “All questions of order shall be determined by the Speaker of the House.”
The disruption was abruptly ended at about two minutes before midnight when Jones called for student pages to come forward to be recognized. Soon after, the House adjourned for the year and balloons and confetti were dropped from observation balconies.
The incident left delegates shaking their heads and trying to make sense of the acrimonious end to the session.
Buckel, the minority leader, said afterward that it was Democrats who were responsible for the delays that frustrated Republicans. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature and could have moved the controversial bill forward earlier in the session.
“Democrats have a supermajority in the Senate and the House, if they want to move important bills or bills they view as important, they have a tremendous amount of ability to do that,” Buckel said.
Del. Marc Korman, the Democratic majority leader, said the disruption and delay meant that some bills didn’t get their final votes before the midnight deadline.
“They decided to frankly fight over nonsense and make a procedural battle over what is basically the routine on sine die,” Korman told reporters afterward.
Asked if any disciplinary action would be considered against Kipke or the Republicans, Korman said: “I think they were belligerent and heated and it’s a long time until we’re back here again, so we’ll see how things are when we come back in the future. The speaker doesn’t need to make any decisions about that tonight.”