Marylanders strongly back term limits for General Assembly members, poll finds

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The inside of the General Assembly chambers in Annapolis. Photo by Roxanne Ready, via Flickr, used with a Creative Commons license.

Three of every four Marylanders support capping the time that state delegates and senators can serve in Annapolis, according to the newest Goucher Poll.

Seventy-five percent of adults surveyed earlier this month said they approve of setting term limits for General Assembly members. As for how long they would extend the cap, more than half of those who back the idea said they would go with two terms, or eight years, while a fifth would go with either one term (four years) or three terms (12 years).

 

Eight years happens to be the same cap proposed in a new bill by Gov. Larry Hogan, dubbed the Government Accountability Act of 2018. Hogan announced the proposal days before the current legislative session began in Annapolis, taking a historically based stand–“Our founding fathers did not envision professional politicians”—and making an example out of federally indicted Baltimore state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks.

Oaks has held office for more than three decades, was already forced to forfeit his once-held delegate seat in 1988 for a theft conviction for double-billing his campaign and the state for expenses, and now faces fraud, obstruction of justice and other charges for allegedly accepting more than $15,000 in bribes for political favors.

Hogan’s bill, if passed, would let voters decide whether to amend the Maryland Constitution by adding term limits in a ballot measure this November.

Mileah Kromer, director of Goucher College’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, which conducted the poll, noted in an interview that term limits have been a popular reform push since the early 1990s.

“It really hasn’t completely gone away,” she said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states have enacted term limits for legislators since then, though supreme courts in four states–Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming–have overturned them, and both Idaho and Utah have subsequently repealed their term-limit laws.

While the Goucher Poll question applied only to state lawmakers, the subject of term limits has also sprung up in City Hall here in Baltimore. The Baltimore City Council’s Judiciary and Legislative Investigations committee earlier this month shot down a charter amendment that would have barred the mayor, city council president, city council members and comptroller from serving more than three consecutive terms.

“No one in my district has come to me and said, ‘We want term limits,'” said Councilman Ed Reisinger, who’s serving his sixth term on the council and voted against the change, to The Sun. “Their concern is crime and grime and taxes… If your constituents want you to stay there, it should be up to them.”

Kromer said such proposals are being floated “at a time where I think there’s a lot of distrust and discord among individuals toward the government,” due in part to gridlock between competing parties in legislatures, as well as the “narrative of the entrenched politician.”

Only 17 percent of those who answered the Goucher Poll said they oppose term limits.

The poll surveyed 800 Maryland adults, most of them registered voters, from Feb. 12-17, and has a 3.5 percent margin of error.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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