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Leatherwood: State government needs term limits

Since 1987, we have had President Reagan, President Bush (the elder), two terms of President Clinton, two terms of President Bush (the younger) and two terms of President Obama. During all that time, Thomas V. "Mike" Miller has presided over the Maryland state Senate.

Senate President Miller was elected to the House of Delegates in 1971 and then as a senator in 1975. He has served as president of the Senate since 1987. Speaker of the House of Delegates Michael Busch's tenure does not compare, he has only been speaker since 2003. He was elected delegate the year President Miller was installed, 1987.

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Are you kidding me?

Miller and Busch, both Democrats, run the Maryland General Assembly, doling out favors and discipline in a manner that keeps the troops in line. These gentlemen have run roughshod over the will of the people for decades and have become blinded to their personal hypocrisy. Last month, when admittedly mean-spirited emails and phone calls were made by people opposed to allowing felons to vote, Miller and Busch used floor time to go on and on about (allegedly) Gov. Larry Hogan-induced "hate mail." However, it was less than a decade ago that Miller notoriously said about Republicans, "We're going to bury them upside-down, and it'll be 10 years before they crawl out again," — a punishment Dante reserved for his eighth ring of hell and the fraudsters that abused power within the church, although Dante also set their feet on fire.

Today, the Republican governor enjoys a historically high approval rating (Two recent professional polls have Hogan accruing between a 66 percent and 70 percent job approval rating). Many Marylanders oppose giving voting rights to felons. It makes no difference. The Democratic-controlled legislature simply overrides Gov. Hogan's veto, and voila, felons may vote while still serving their sentences.

Moving on to the Transportation Bill — Del. Bob Flanagan, former secretary of the Department of Transportation, recently stated, "It is an unavoidable fact that transportation needs will almost always be greater than the funds available to address them. The history of how projects are selected is rooted in Gov. Marvin Mandel's 1970s era reforms that created a strong executive department. The selection process that emerged from those reforms has been scandal free and generally accepted since its inception."

House Bill 1013 changes the traditional and successful method for prioritizing transportation projects. Gov. Hogan vetoed this bill and again, his veto was simply overridden. No longer will the executive branch work with local jurisdictions to select transportation projects. The priorities will be determined by a formula that strongly favors mass transit projects benefiting urban areas and leaving rural counties like our own with infrastructure concerns.

One positive outcome of the recent session is Hogan's budget. It is a balanced budget, reflecting spending restraint. With this budget, the governor ended the practice of raiding the so-called trust funds, where previous administrations had transferred money allocated for a particular purpose into the general fund to balance the budget. In this budget, money set aside for the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund will stay there.

Despite the hard work of our Carroll County delegation in support of Hogan and his objectives, Maryland will not be moving forward in all the ways it could be. Fictional President Frank Underwood of "House of Cards" could only dream of successfully whipping the votes the way Sen. Miller and Del. Busch routinely do, overriding every single one of Gov. Hogan's vetoes with lockstep partisan support.

It seems to me that the citizens are better served by representatives that have not become so entrenched and out of touch. It does make sense for the legislators to be elected to multiple terms as there are some advantages to institutional knowledge. I do not know how many terms I am comfortable with, but I am certain Miller's dozen terms is too many. Please note, I am not calling for voluntary term limits for the Carroll County delegation. Unless the entire body is held to this standard, self-imposed term limits only weaken the position of Carroll County in the legislature as much is based on seniority.

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The previous Board of County Commissioners recognized the value of term limits. They asked the General Assembly to term limit commissioners. This was passed during the tenure of the 59th Board of Commissioners. Moving forward, commissioners are limited to two terms.

Fresh enthusiasm, new perspectives, occasional bipartisanship and a challenge to the status quo are part of a healthy governing process. It is time for "the Mikes" to move on.

Karen Leatherwood writes from Eldersburg. Reach her at leatherwoodkarenm@gmail.com.

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