ANNAPOLIS — Is the third time a charm?
Delegate David Vogt, R-District 4, is hoping that’s true for a bill that would limit senators and delegates to three consecutive terms in the same office and a lifetime maximum of five terms — or 20 years — as a member of the General Assembly.
But the bill faces a tough audience.
About one-third of the current senators and delegates have served in their respective houses of the General Assembly for more than three terms.
And House Speaker Michael Busch (D) is the longest-serving head of the House of Delegates in Maryland history.
And Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D) has been a member of the General Assembly since 1971. With three decades as Senate president under his belt, Miller is the longest-serving state Senate president in the country.
And because the bill is a constitutional amendment, it would then go before voters to decide.
In a committee hearing last Friday, Vogt acknowledged that the bill comes from an unlikely source — an elected official.
“I know that obviously ... a lot of folks never really expect anybody in our positions to offer that up willingly,” Vogt said. “It’s a matter of making sure that we are holding ourselves to a high standard, holding ourselves accountable, as well as allowing for ... new and fresh ideas and knowledge within legislatures across the country.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 15 state legislatures have term-limit provisions for their members. Nebraska was the last state to enact term limits, in 2000.
Vogt said his proposal would be the second most liberal approach to term limits in the country, behind only Nevada, which maximized term limits at 12 years in each chamber, with 24 years as a total cap.
Vogt introduced the same bill in 2016. A similar — though more conservative — version was introduced in 2014 by then-Delegate Michael Hough, current senator for District 4. Both of those bills received a hearing in the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, but no further action was taken.
Bill dies, survives at the same time
Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, has signed on to co-sponsor a bill that really was actually his bill.
During a bill hearing earlier this session, Young confronted colleague Sen. Delores Kelley after the Baltimore Democrat filed a word-for-word copy of a bill he’d worked on over the break between sessions. It led to an uncomfortable hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, where Kelley is vice chairwoman.
This week, the committee issued an unfavorable report on Young’s bill, indicating that the measure had been withdrawn.
Young confirmed as much this week.
“We had a problem. Sen. Kelley dropped the same bill. I talked to her. I withdrew mine and [joined] hers. She’s on the committee, so I’d let her work it and I’d be a co-sponsor. The exact same bill is still in and I’m a co-sponsor,” he explained.
Hough, a member of the committee, confirmed that amendments to Kelley’s version of the bill are still being worked out.
Hotel funding showdown on hold
Briefly this week, Frederick County lawmakers opposed to state funding for a proposed downtown hotel and conference center prepared for battle. They were responding to a rumor that pre-authorized budget language — stricken from the governor’s budget introduced this year — had re-emerged.
“It’s the same baloney, different year,” said Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4. “... They’re not going to get the money. We’re going to fight it again. And we will win.”
Alas, there is no funding for the downtown hotel and conference center in official budget documents. At least not yet.
The confusion arose as the result of a bill drafting practice that puts language deleted from current law between brackets. In this case, the beginning bracket and ending bracket were on separate pages, deleting multiple pages of text. A page in the middle mentioned the hotel money, with no brackets in sight.
Upon a quick glance or keyword search, the funding might’ve appeared to be there, clear as day.
The House Appropriations Committee is not starting its markup of the state’s capital budget until next week. Last year, the conference center funding was added even later in the process, when a budget conference committee was ironing out differences between budget bills passed by the House and Senate.
Advocates of the project have said they will seek to restore the funding to the state’s budget this year.
“We’re working through the process and we’re in the process,” Delegate Carol Krimm, D-District 3A, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said Thursday.