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On August 30th, the MSBA hosted Coffee and Conversations with Legislators, featuring Former Senator Doug Peters. Former Senator Bobby Zirkin moderated the conversation. 

Senator Peters, who represented District 23 in Prince George’s County,  served in the Maryland Senate from 2007 until his departure last month, when he was appointed to the University of Maryland Board of Regents. During his time in the Senate, he served as Chairman of the Capital Budget Subcommittee of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. 

Senator Peters, who attended the University of Maryland, explained that he decided not to run for re-election. He always wanted to serve on the Board of Regents and expressed his interest to the Governor after the legislative session ended in April.  Two weeks later, he received a phone call about a position that opened on July 1 and quickly began the process of transitioning to his new role. 

For those unfamiliar with the Board of Regents, Senator Peters explained, that there are 21 regents, two of whom are students, who are appointed based on demographics and geography. He is the only regent from Prince George’s County. The Board governs the University System of Maryland, appoints the presidents of the system’s 12 institutions, and appoints the chancellor. The Board is involved in such matters as deciding what conferences University sports teams should belong to, and overseeing student-athlete endorsement deals. 

Senator Zirkin then asked Senator Peters what serving on the budget subcommittee entailed. Senator Peters explained that Senate sets debt limits, and the Governor drafts the capital and operating budgets, which are then sent to either Senate and the House for amendments. They then go back to the Governor, who can veto either budget. The capital budget is for construction, bond bills, and things of that nature. Currently, it is about $4 billion per year, most of which goes to building and repairing roads. Attorneys interested in obtaining funds for qualifying projects should write letters to the Governor to see if he is willing to allocate funds to their projects. They can also write letters seeking funds to the budget chairs, senators, and delegates. The operating budget is for personnel, programs, and similar matters. The Legislature only recently gained the ability to amend the operating budget. 

Senator Peters was also the Senate Veterans Caucus Chairman and helped establish the Lieutenant Richard Collins Foundation.  Lieutenant Collins, a Bowie State University ROTC candidate, was stabbed to death while waiting for an Uber. Lieutenant Collins was black. His white assailant was affiliated with numerous alt-right groups, and many viewed the killing as a hate crime. Senator Peters helped Collins’ family, started the Foundation, which provides support to ROTC cadets at Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities, including Collins’ alma mater, Morgan State University, Coppin State University, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.

Senator Peters also discussed his work on bills pertaining to gaming and sports betting, the driving force behind the bills, and the financial benefits brought about by the passage of the bills.

The discussion then turned to a measure that is on the ballot this year, the renaming of the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Court of Special Appeals. Senator Peters explained that Chief Judge Barbara approached him about the topic after the Court of Appeals building was recently renovated, expressing that the current naming convention is confusing. Senator Zirkin stated that it would be interesting to see how prior citations to the courts would be handled if the measure passes. 

Senator Peters stated that he missed the people he worked with in the Senate, noting he made lifelong friends during his tenure. He expressed pride in their ability to work together to get important legislation passed for the benefit of their communities. He ended the conversation by expressing his hopes for the Maryland legislature going forward. 

People interested in viewing the entire conversation can access it here.