A Maryland lawmaker who brought proceedings to a halt in the final minutes of the General Assembly session by hollering at the speaker over a procedural offense apologized for his actions on Tuesday afternoon.
“I listened to the floor debate and agree that things got heated,” Del. Nic Kipke, an Anne Arundel Republican, said in a statement to The Baltimore Banner. “I did call the speaker to apologize for my tone.”
It was a shift for Kipke, who just hours earlier told The Banner in an interview that he saw nothing to apologize for.
“I don’t apologize for standing up for the voice of the Republicans in the chamber,” Kipke said initially. “If anyone’s feelings were hurt, I’m sorry their feelings were hurt.”
After speaking with Kipke, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones issued a statement that read, in part: “Delegate Kipke and I have served together for a long time, and I believe that when he called me this afternoon to apologize, it was genuine.”
As the clock ticked close to midnight on Monday, Republicans fumed when . Jones cut off debate and barred them from explaining their votes against a bill banning police from searching people and cars based on the smell of marijuana alone.
Multiple Republican lawmakers were incensed about the speaker’s move — which she said was her prerogative under the House rules — but Kipke took the protests to a dramatic level.
Kipke rose from his seat in the rear of the House chamber and yelled into his microphone to challenge Jones’ handling of the matter. She tried to gavel him down, but he persisted.
Pointing at the speaker, he tried to explain that she should step aside and let the speaker pro-tem handle the challenge, citing provisions in the House rules. But Kipke’s words came sputtering out in short bursts, with him yelling that she should “sit down.”
Jones stayed firm and powered through as Kipke kept yelling and several other Republicans rose from their seats and followed House Minority Leader Jason Buckel toward the exit.
“It’s important to acknowledge I wasn’t alone in protesting what happened. The entire Republican Caucus was upset at how the speaker was treating the caucus. The members, including the leaders, were walking off the floor,” said Kipke, who previously served as House minority leader.
Kipke said his protest wasn’t planned; rather it was a bubbling over of frustration that had been building among Republicans all day. The GOP is outnumbered and outmatched in Annapolis, unable to successfully push for conservative policies and left with little more than the power of its members’ voices.
Kipke said he made similar challenges to the late House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat who preceded Jones in presiding over the House.
“I think she’s a really good woman,” Kipke said of Jones. “I don’t know why she was rushing through in the final minutes and not allowing the process to take place as normal.”
Democrats have countered that quick votes and truncated debates are part of the typical pattern of the marathon last day of the legislative session that sees lawmakers push hundreds of bills across the finish line — something that Kipke, as a veteran lawmaker, has experienced before.
Some called for Kipke to apologize to Jones, the first woman and first person of color to serve as a presiding officer in the Maryland General Assembly.
“Nic Kipke was intoxicated and belligerent on the House floor last night. His shameful behavior was unwarranted and beneath the dignity of the House Chamber,” Del. Jheanelle Wilkins, chair of the powerful Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “He must apologize immediately and consider if his future is in the House.”
She continued: “Women in leadership — especially Black women — should NEVER be told to sit down.”
Kipke, who said he was “absolutely not” intoxicated, initially texted Jones to offer an “olive branch” and later left her a voicemail to apologize.
Jones referred to the exchange as a “disruption” in her statement Tuesday afternoon.
“The final moments of Sine Die were an unfortunate ending to an otherwise great session,” she wrote in the statement. “There is always tension between the majority and minority parties, but the institution is bigger than any one of us and decorum in the House chamber matters. I’ll continue to protect both the institution and the rights of every member.”
The incident unfolded as Gov. Wes Moore watched from the observation balcony.
The governor “believes all elected officials should be showing the nation how we can govern through partnership, bipartisanship, and a set of common values,” Moore spokesman Carter Elliott IV said in a statement Tuesday. “What happened last night did the opposite, and we should all expect better from our leaders.”
Some saw Kipke’s outburst and the Republican complaints as simply a delay tactic to prevent bills they disliked from coming up for final votes. One of the bills that got backed up with the several-minute delay was legislation to reduce penalties for drug kingpins.
Another bill that got held up and ended up dying would have taken the common law crime against indecent exposure in front of a minor and cemented it in the state’s criminal code.
Del. Nick Charles, a Prince George’s County Democrat, said his Republican colleagues wanted to “run out the clock, so we couldn’t get the rest of the bills that were left on the table out.”
“That’s the short and simple of it,” Charles said. The confrontation “showed some nasty sides — a lot of screaming happening in my ear as I’m sitting there.”
Baltimore Banner reporters Brenda Wintrode and Callan Tansill-Suddath contributed to this article.