Maryland. General Assembly

Variant names

Hide Profile

The General Assembly traces its origins to the beginnings of the colony when its first settlers met in assembly in 1635 and adopted a body of laws by which they wished to be governed by the Lord Proprietary. In January 1637/8, the lord proprietry himself called an assembly of all freemena of the province, or their representative proxy, to approve an alternative set of laws he had devised. The second assembly defeated the proprietary's laws and passed their own before adjourning, establishing the assembly's right to initiate legislation for the colony.

In 1650, the assembly was divided into two houses, creating a bicameral legislature. The Upper House was composed initially of the Governor and Council, and the Council only after 1675. The council consisted of twelve members appointed by the lord proprietor, strongly supporting his causes. The Lower House was composed of burgesses or delegates elected by freemen of the province to represent the rights of the colonists in the assembly. One to four delegates were elected from each county with suffrage restricted to free landowners. A clerk of the Lower House was established in 1658, and the assembly secretary served as clerk of the Upper House until 1661.

The constitution of 1776 firmly established a bicameral legislature in the state, consisting of a House of Delegates and a Senate. The House of Delegates closely resembled the former Lower House with four delegates elected annually from each county and two each from Annapolis and Baltimore. The Senate differed from the former Upper House in its separation from the Governor and Council. Its fifteen members, nine from the western shore and six from the eastern shore, were chosen every 5 years by Senate Electors selected by the voters. Citing the need for governmental reform in the 1830's, the General Assembly in 1837 ratified a constitutional amendment to allow for direct election of senators. Beginning in 1838, the Senate was composed of 21 members representing each county and Baltimore City. Elections were held concurrently with the house of delegates, and qualifications for the office of delegate and senator varied only in age and property requirements. In 1847, the terms of delegates increased to 2 years, and those of senators were reduced to four years in 1851. In 1924, senators and delegates were both given four year terms.

In 1867, the Maryland constitution increased the representative nature of the assembly, with senators chosen from each county and from each of six legislative districts of Baltimore City. Delegates were chosen on the basis of population.

The General Assembly is currently composed of 188 members, with 47 senators and 141 delegates. One senator and three delegates are elected from each of the 47 legislative districts to serve four-year terms. Legislators must be Maryland citizens, residing in the state for at least one year preceding the date of election, and for at least six months in the legislative district represented. Senators must be at least 25 years of age and delegates at least 21, and can serve repeatedly without limitation. Each house elects its own officers, judges the qualifications of its own members, establishes rules for conduct of business, and punishes or expels its own members. Words spoken in debate, however, are not subject to censor or charges. The secretary of the senate and chief clerk of the house are responsible for calling the roll in their respective divisions and presiding over their organization. A president of the senate and speaker of the house are chosen to preside over the assembly.

The president and speaker select majority leaders, majority whips, and deputy majority leaders of the assembly. They also appoint members of standing committees, joint committees, conference committees, and select comittees; designate and advise chairpersons; preside over sessions; decide points of order; and assign legislation to committees for consideration and public hearings.

The General Assembly passes laws necessary for the welfare of the state, with legislative authority limited by state and federal constitutions and judicial decision. It establishes executive departments for the efficient operation of state government, creates special taxing districts within the state to administer functions, levies taxes, and proposes state constitutional amendments. The assembly can pass laws pertaining to local issues, ordinances, and expenditures only on a statewide basis; however, it reserves the right to regulate elections and to license the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages.

All bills and resolutions introduced by the general assembly are first sponsored by a legislator who requests that they be drafted to meet constitutional standards by the Department of Legislative Reference. Bills are then filed with the secretary of the senate or the chief clerk of the house where they are numbered, stamped for approval and codification, and printed on either white or blue paper, signifying senate or house legislation respectively. Bills are read three times in each house. After their first reading, bills are referred to select committees. These committees hold public hearings on the bills or resolutions, considering fiscal analyses and testimony of sponsors and opponents. After the second reading and addition of comments or amendments, the bill is sent for printing and its third reading, voted upon, and, if approved, transfered to the other house. A bill passed by both houses is sent to the governor for his signature or veto. Most assembly sessions are limited to ninety days, but special sessions can be called by the governor.

From the description of Agency history, 1635- (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122469956

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Maryland. General Assembly journal extracts, 1649-1650. Library of Congress
referencedIn Nicols, John, 1811-1873. John Nicols and family papers, 1818-1873. Minnesota Historical Society Library
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Committee hearing schedules, 1990. Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Committee file, 1965-1979. Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Laws, original, 1731-1990. Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Proceedings of house and senate, 1817-1845. Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Constitutions, original, 1851-1867. Maryland State Archives
referencedIn Sharpe, Gregory, 1713-1771. Letter, 1758 March 18, to Horatio Sharpe. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Senate bill book, 1884-1910. Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Bills and resolutions, 1976-1990. Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. House and senate bill book, 1910-1975. Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Resolution extracts, 1775-1783. Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Agency history, 1635- Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Synopses, 1976-1993. Maryland State Archives
referencedIn Carroll, Charles, 1737-1832. ALS, 1787 Jan. 22, Annapolis, Md., to John Fitzgerald, Alexandria, Va. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Joint resolutions, 1815-1990. Maryland State Archives
referencedIn Menes, Pauline H. Papers of Pauline Menes, 1970-1986. University of Maryland (College Park, Md.). Libraries
referencedIn Sappington, Thomas. Letter, 1835. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Peale, St. George, 1745-1778. Accounts, 1777-1778, with the Board of War. American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. House bill book, 1856-1910. Maryland State Archives
referencedIn Montgomery County Committee for Fair Representation (Montgomery County, Md.). Archives of the Montgomery County Committee for Fair Representation, 1960-1968. University of Maryland (College Park, Md.). Libraries
referencedIn Thomas Addis Emmet collection, 1483-1876 (bulk:1700-1800) New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Carroll, Charles, 1723-1783. Maryland manuscripts collection. State and local government records, 1663-1994. University of Maryland (College Park, Md.). Libraries
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Status cards, 1831-1835, 1904-1980. Maryland State Archives
referencedIn Washington, George, 1732-1799. George Washington papers, 1754-1797. Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Journal, house and senate, 1965-1993. Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Law record, 1638-1927. Maryland State Archives
creatorOf Maryland. General Assembly. Third reader failures and vetoes, 1957-1980. Maryland State Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Carroll, Charles, 1737-1832. person
associatedWith Emmet, Thomas Addis person
associatedWith Maryland. Dept. of Legislative Reference. corporateBody
associatedWith Maryland. Senate Electors. corporateBody
associatedWith Menes, Pauline H. person
associatedWith Montgomery County Committee for Fair Representation (Montgomery County, Md.) corporateBody
associatedWith Nicols, John, 1811-1873. person
associatedWith Peale, St. George, 1745-1778. person
associatedWith Sappington, Thomas. person
associatedWith Sharpe, Gregory, 1713-1771. person
associatedWith Washington, George, 1732-1799. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Maryland--Politics and government
Maryland--Politics and government
Freedom of religion
Constitutions, state
Legislative bodies--Committee
Legislative hearings
Legislative bodies--Upper chambers
Bills, Legislative
Legislative veto
Resolutions, legislative
Legislative bodies
Representative government and representation
Legislative bodies--Voting
Legislative bodies--Lower chambers
Legislative journals
Legislative calendars
Maryland--Church history

Corporate Body

Active 1817

Active 1845



Ark ID: w6dg0j91

SNAC ID: 71124988