Baltimore County

Balto. Co.'s Marks to introduce term-limits bill

A member of the Baltimore County Council wants voters to decide whether to enact term limits, but his idea doesn't have much support on the council.

Perry Hall Republican David Marks plans to introduce legislation Tuesday that would limit council members to three consecutive terms starting in 2014. Only Marks and fellow Republican Todd Huff, a councilman from Lutherville, have said they would support the legislation.

Democrats, who hold a majority on the panel, oppose it.

Enacting term limits had been one of Marks' campaign promises when he sought the council seat in 2010. His bill would put the issue to a referendum so voters could decide.

"I just think it's good to have an automatic turnover of officials in county government," Marks said. "I think it's a good-government measure that has support from Democrats, Republicans and independents alike."

Huff said he believes in term limits for all levels of government.

Four counties in Maryland have term limits for council members or county commissioners, including Anne Arundel, Howard, and Prince George's, according to the Maryland Association of Counties.

Marks' legislation would need five of seven votes on the council because it would amend the county charter.

"Councilman Marks knows he does not have the votes," said Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who is the current council's longest-serving member. "And if you ask me, he's just grandstanding."

Olszewski, a Dundalk Democrat elected to his fourth term in 2010, said he doesn't believe in term limits because "that's what elections are for."

"We live in a democracy where people can decide who their representative are," he said. "If you have a good representative and he's term-limited out, who's to say you're going to get a good one in the next election?"

Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, had similar thoughts.

"If people aren't happy with you, they don't vote for you and they don't get you re-elected," Bevins said. "I feel that that's what elections are for."

Councilman Tom Quirk said long-serving council members help balance the power of the county executive. "I think it's important to have a seasoned legislative branch in Baltimore County because the executive branch is very powerful," said the Catonsville Democrat.

For instance, the executive has much more power than the council in budget matters, he said. The council can only cut from what the executive recommends in the spending plan.

The council was largely new after the 2010 elections, with five of seven members being freshmen.

Councilman Kenneth Oliver said the county has fared well without term limits.

"This county has been financially sound in the last 30 years without term limits, and I think managed very well," said Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat elected in 2002.

Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, could not be reached for comment.

Marks acknowledged that "it would be tough getting the votes" for his proposal, but he said he wants the public to debate the issue.

"If the term-limit legislation fails, it will at least provide hopefully a good discussion on the merits of the proposal," he said. "But I think the voters deserve the right to decide."