Baltimore’s newly approved term limits for its mayor, comptroller and the City Council will not to be effective until 2024, but a member of council is already calling for their repeal.
Councilman Ryan Dorsey introduced a bill Thursday proposing a charter amendment that would remove term limits from city law. The legislation would have to be passed by the council and agreed to by the mayor before it could be placed on the ballot for voters to consider in the 2024 election.
“Term limits are bad for democracy,” Dorsey said. “If voters want to enact term limits as they have, fine. That’s the voters’ choice. All I’m proposing is that the City Council host a discussion on why folks might want to reconsider and then ask them if they do want to reconsider.”
Term limits have been a flashpoint this year thanks to a ballot question known as Question K that was put to voters in November. The question, the product of a petition drive funded by Sinclair Broadcasting Group Chairman David Smith, asked voters if they wanted to establish a limit of two four-year terms for the city’s elected offices.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure along with the other 10 questions that appeared on the ballot this fall. City voters rarely oppose a ballot question.
Opponents of Question K, which have included several members of the City Council, have been critical of Smith’s involvement. Sinclair’s television stations include local Fox 45, whose reporting is often among the most critical of the city’s elected leaders.
Campaign finance reports show Smith put $805,000 into the effort to pass Question K.
Dorsey said the issue of term limits was never vetted because of the method used to put the question on the ballot. “I don’t know how anybody could consider what has transpired to be an adequate or balanced discussion,” he said.
A brief discussion of Dorsey’s repeal proposal Thursday during City Council’s lunch meeting, however, signaled the legislation may not have a path to passage. Council President Nick Mosby warned members he thought it set a dangerous precedent.
Mosby selected the council committee chairpersons who would need to schedule a hearing for the bill to advance. The bill was assigned to the Rules and Oversight Committee Thursday, which is chaired by Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer.
Dorsey acknowledged there was a chance the bill would not receive a hearing. Still, several members of the council signed on to co-sponsor the legislation Thursday evening, including Councilwomen Odette Ramos and Danielle McCray and Councilman Kristerfer Burnett.
“Will we passively accept the outcome of oligarchical influence and wait for what it has in store for us all next?” Dorsey asked.
Mosby has been a vocal critic of the term limit amendment and recently spearheaded legislation to reduce the number of years elected officials need to earn a pension, a move he said was necessitated by Question K’s passage. Mosby’s bill, which passed by an 8-5 vote with two members abstaining, would allow elected officials to earn a pension in eight years instead of the current 12.
However last week Mayor Brandon Scott vetoed the pension eligibility legislation, arguing it has not had a proper financial analysis and raises concerns about a conflict of interest for members of the council who supported it.