WASHINGTON — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wants term limits for state lawmakers.
In a news conference the day before the start of the Maryland General Assembly Session in Annapolis, Hogan announced what he called The Government Accountability Act. Under his proposal, Maryland lawmakers would be limited to serving a maximum of eight years in each chamber in the Maryland General Assembly.
“We are calling on legislators on both sides of the aisle to come together in a bipartisan way to bring this legislation to the floor of the House and the Senate for an up-or-down vote,” Hogan said. The plan is to have the issue on the ballot in November.
Hogan, a Republican who is running for re-election, said 15 other states have legislative term limits. Hogan claimed the measure could make state government more accountable to the people of Maryland, and cited Montgomery County, where voters passed a term-limit measure that has barred four Montgomery County council members from running for another term.
Damon Effingham, acting director of Common Cause of Maryland called term limits “One of those things where it sounds like a great idea, but is pretty never much what it’s cracked up to be.”
Instead of reducing the likelihood of corruption, Effingham said, term limits could have the opposite effect — eliminating long-term lawmakers with institutional knowledge and increasing legislators’ reliance on lobbyists.
Hogan, like all Maryland governors, is limited to two four-year terms.
The governor also announced an effort to require live-streaming of legislative deliberations. He said Maryland is one of just seven states that don’t offer live video streams of lawmakers’ deliberations.
Effingham said that’s a measure Common Cause of Maryland fully supports: “We think that’s a great idea. It’s just another way to hold government accountable.”
Dirk Haire, the chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, also agrees live-streaming in the Maryland State House is a positive move: “The Republican Party 100 percent supports livestreaming everything that happens on the House and Senate floors in the General Assembly.”
One issue that will hang over the first day of the 90-day lawmaking session: The status of Sen. Nathaniel Oaks.
The lawmaker from Baltimore has been under indictment in a federal corruption case in which he allegedly took $15,300 in exchange for offering help on legislation. Senate President Mike Miller said he’s referring Oaks’ case to the legislative ethics committee, a move that could result in his removal from office.
Hogan referred to Oaks’ case at his news conference, saying “That senator, shamefully, will still be on the floor of the Senate when the legislative session begins tomorrow.” The Maryland Republican Party posted a petition on its website calling for Oaks’ removal from office.
Asked about Miller’s decision to refer the case to the ethics committee, Haire said, “I don’t think that’s good enough.” Noting that Oaks lost his seat in the house of delegates in the 1980s after he was convicted of stealing money from his campaign account, Haire said, “Senator Oaks has a history of not just being indicted, but convicted, of public corruption.”
Effingham, with Common Cause, agreed: “He’s not going to do it, but 100 percent Senator Oaks should step down.”
WTOP contacted Oaks’ office but did not get a reply.