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Del. McKee wants term limits for governors

January 30, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- Instead of four or eight years in office, each Maryland governor would get six, under a bill Del. Robert A. McKee plans to file this week.

It would take a state constitutional amendment to make the change McKee is proposing. Voters would decide through a referendum in the next general election, but the change wouldn't take effect until 2014.

"I just think it takes out some of the politics and makes it better government for the people ...," said McKee, R-Washington. "I'm not a political person."

The governor and lieutenant governor wouldn't have the constant first-term pressures of re-election, including fundraising, he said.

The governor would have a longer period in which to get things done, he said.

Maryland's constitution sets a limit of two consecutive four-year terms for the governor.

West Virginia and Pennsylvania have similar prohibitions.

Virginia, though, doesn't let a governor serve a second consecutive term.

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Told of McKee's idea, Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, said, "That's interesting. We'll look at it."

The concept had detractors on both sides of the aisle in Washington County.

Republican Central Committee Chairwoman Penny Pittman said voters should get to decide the fate of their governor after four years.

If the governor performed well, he or she should be re-elected, she said.

"It sounds like the worst of two possible worlds," said Patricia Heck, the chairwoman of the county's Democratic Central Committee.

Maryland residents couldn't extend the service of a good governor and would have to suffer longer with a bad one, she said.

"It sounds pretty silly to me," Heck said.

"It can have certain advantages for the process," said Spring Ward, who teaches government at Hagerstown Community College. "If you have an unpopular executive, it's easier to get him out of office."

On the other hand, "some would argue that term limits don't give people enough credit," Ward said.

Del. Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, said he's probably opposed, because of how the governor could be perceived.

"My thought is, from the day he would come in, there would be those in here who would view him as a lame duck ...," Kelly said. "Let him go out there and let him do the people's work. If they're satisfied, they'll re-elect him."

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, called the proposal "intriguing."

"I'd like to hear a lot more about it," he said, giving McKee credit for thinking creatively.

Shank said he wasn't sure, though, that the change would entirely eliminate political maneuvering in the way McKee hopes.

McKee said he has spoken out against term limits before, but he thinks the position of governor, with the power it carries, is unique.

His bill would go to the House Ways and Means Committee, on which he serves.

"It's the beginning of a discussion," he said.

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