Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) hopes a term limits bill he proposed last week will end the Democratic Party’s “corruption” and control of the General Assembly by limiting delegates and state senators to two four-year terms.
“Our founding fathers never envisioned professional politicians who spend their entire careers in office; what they intended was citizen legislators who would represent their constituents and then return back home to their real jobs,” Hogan said during a press conference in Annapolis last week. “The rise of professional politicians has led to out-of-control partisanship, the stifling of honest debate and fresh ideas, rampant gerrymandering, one-party monopolies, and an increased potential for the type of corruption that our administration has been fighting to root out,” said the governor.
Hogan’s proposed bill, the Government Accountability Act of 2018, would limit state delegates and senators to two consecutive four-year terms. If passed, the proposal would put state legislatures in line with the governor, who is currently limited to two four-year terms.
But despite Hogan’s characterization of state legislators as professionals, serving in either chamber of the General Assembly is a part-time job, as it only meets for approximately 90 days out of the year.
“When I was elected, I pledged that we were going to get to work cleaning up the mess in Annapolis and restoring integrity to our state capitol. I promised to build a government that would work for the people – instead of the other way around – and that we would usher in a new era of bipartisanship,” Hogan said. “From the first day of our administration, our team has been working diligently to root out wrongdoing and corruption no matter where it is taking place.”
Hogan did not specify what kind of “corruption” he was referring to, but his use of the word when describing the heavily-Democratic General Assembly mirrors language used by President Donald Trump (R), who, more than a year after the 2016 election, frequently accuses Democrats and their allies of various forms of corruption despite lacking any evidence, and has called for the Department of Justice to investigate his political opponents.
And while he characterized his bill as a tool of bipartisanship, imposing term limits on the heavily-Democratic legislature would disproportionately benefit Republicans because without them, Maryland’s mostly-Democratic voters can vote to send the same Democratic Delegates and State Senators to Annapolis every four years.
Term limits have enabled Republicans to take control of nearly all of the 15 states which impose some form of term limits on state representatives. Of the 15, only California has a Democratic-controlled state legislature. While the U.S. Constitution does not have term limits for members of Congress, a proposal to impose them was part of the “Contract with America” promoted by Congressional Republicans in 1994, when they took control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. A two-term limit for the president was created by the 22nd Amendment, which was ratified in 1951.
Term limits can benefit Republicans in heavily-Democratic states by giving Republican candidates more chances to win by allowing them to run for open seats instead of trying to knock off popular Democrats.
If Republicans can gain more seats in the General Assembly, they would be able to have more influence on the redistricting process that takes place every 10 years following the US Census, which would allow them to draw state legislature and congressional districts that are more favorable to Republicans.
While some proponents of term limits believe they encourage more people to run for office and keeps politicians from prioritizing re-election over their constituents, critics say term limits prevent voters from benefiting from elected officials with significant experience, which gives more power to unelected staff and lobbyists.
In 2016, voters in deeply-blue Montgomery County passed term limits via referendum for County officials with about 70 percent of the vote. Like Hogan’s proposal, the County term limits limit council members and the county executive to two consecutive four-year terms.
The term limits referendum in Montgomery County was championed by attorney, activist, and perennial candidate Robin Ficker.
During that campaign, Ficker – who won a single term in the House of Delegates in 1978 and has run for office more than a dozen times, usually as a Republican, since 1972 – maintained that his motivation was not a desire to make it easier for win an election by removing longtime incumbents from the equation.
The only thing he planned to run for in 2018 was “cover,” Ficker said during a debate on the term limit initiative.
However, Ficker later filed papers to be a Republican candidate to replace County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). Still, Ficker said he thinks Montgomery County residents are “better off” with term limits.
The 2016 term limit referendum prevented Council members Roger Berliner (D-1), Nancy Floreen (D-at large), Marc Elrich (D-at large) and George Leventhal (D-at large) from seeking re-election, opening up their seats to new candidates in 2018. So far there are 45 candidates filed to for nine council seats in the 2018 election.