ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Michael Busch, the longest-running speaker at Maryland House in the history of the state, died Sunday, his chief of staff said. Busch was 72.
Busch, a democrat who became a speaker in 2003, had developed pneumonia following a follow-up procedure for a liver transplant in 2017 after the diagnosis of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a liver disease. He also had a bypass operation in September, after he had been short of breath. Chief of staff Alexandra Hughes said that Busch was surrounded by loved ones at the time of death.
He was known for his interest in health care, environmental measures to help Chesapeake Bay and progressive policies. The state approved same-sex marriage and revoked the death penalty during his tenure as a speaker. Legislation that increased the state's minimum wage was expired twice during his term of office.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, the longest-serving senate president in the history of the state, said Busch was a model state delegate who took care of every corner of the state.
"My heart is broken for the family of Mike Busch, the state of Maryland, and the extended family of the speaker – elected officials and staff that he has been a mentor and coach to endure his time in public service," Miller said, Democrat who fights prostate cancer. "Mike has been a friend for years and has taken the state to new heights of environmental awareness and education."
Government Larry Hogan, a Republican, said that flags with half staff fly to honor Busch, with immediate effect until sunset on the day of intermentation. He described Busch as "a giant in our government" and said that his legacy is clear from his many legislative achievements.
Mike has been a friend for years and has taken the state to new heights of environmental awareness and education
"Speaker Busch and I came from different sides of the aisle, but we often met in the interests of the people of Maryland," Hogan said. "He served with the decency and good nature of a teacher, a coach and a family man. I thought it was an honor to know him and to work closely with him. & # 39;
Alison Prost, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Maryland, emphasized Busch's environmental work.
"The Chesapeake Bay lost a champion today," Prost said. "Although there were many things close to and dear to Speaker Busch, he made saving the bay a priority for the General Assembly, and the legislators followed his example. He will be missed very much. & # 39;
Busch was first elected to the House in 1986. His district included the capital of the state of Annapolis, making him a frequent presence at the Maryland State House – even when the General Assembly was not in session.
He was known as a consensus builder and a low-threshold good listener, qualities that helped him run the multifaceted House of Delegates with 141 members as long as he did.
He considered himself a progressive democrat. He had a strong commitment to equal rights that resulted from growing up in the 1960s at the height of the civil rights movement against racial segregation.
"That was ingrained in me from my grandparents to my parents and through the & # 39; 60," he told in 2002.
At that time he remembered two photos on the mantle of his grandparents – Jesus and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both grandparents "believed that Roosevelt gave the average person a piece of the American dream," he said. "I really believe that the government is there to offer people opportunities."
Busch, a Catholic, was born in Baltimore, but has lived in Anne Arundel County since he was ten until he left to go to college. He was a record-setter who returned to Temple University in 1969. His sports career reached a peak in his junior year when he ran 185 meters to Bucknell University, setting a record that has since been broken. If there had been no leg injury, he might have followed a career in football. The Dallas Cowboys sent him a letter telling him that "you are considered by our ball club to be one of our most important concept choices," but the team did not know his career was over.
After obtaining his education degree, he returned home and taught in public and parochial schools. He was a football and basketball coach at St. Mary's High School in Annapolis and stopped teaching in 1979 to work for the county parks and recreation department.
He sparked his interest in politics in 1982 when he was the driver of Robert Pascal, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the governor. Busch finished fifth among twelve Democrats who rode three home seats this year, but he was elected to the House in 1986.
After seven years in the legislature, Busch moved to the chair of the House Economic Matters Committee in 1994. The committee dealt with healthcare issues and legislation related to business and economic development.