Prince George’s County voters will weigh in for the third time in 22 years on whether term limits should restrict local politicians’ time in office.
The County Council voted unanimously Wednesday to place a measure on the November ballot that would increase term limits from two to three four-year terms for both the council and the county executive.
The county enacted term limits in 1992 as a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment swept the nation. Residents again voiced their support for term limits in 2000, with 64 percent of residents voting against a measure to repeal the limits entirely.
This time around, the measure headed to the ballot is a bit of a compromise, extending the length of time a politician could remain in office from two four-year terms to three.
Council members suggested their votes for the measure were a means to leave the issue up to voters, though some were more explicit than others in their underlying support for the term-limit extension.
“We are at a regional disadvantage because of our term limits,” said council member Andrea Harrison, District 5 Democrat.
She lamented that county leadership may struggle to work effectively with other jurisdictions in the region, which do not have term limits, because of the constant turnover and lack of continuity.
“We’re always starting over,” she said.
But residents who spoke out against the measure didn’t see it that way.
“I don’t believe that all of you as energetic, enthusiastic, young adults need more than four years on a learning curve to be able to implement and legislate,” said Sarah Cavitt, a longtime civic activist and former member of the county planning board.
The recommendation for the term-limits extension was made by an eight-person commission selected by members of the County Council and County Executive Rushern L. Baker III to vet the county’s charter. The commission was led by retired Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge William D. Missouri, who Mr. Baker also appointed to his ethics task force, and former County Council member Camille Exum.
Mr. Baker has long voiced opposition to term limits in the county, leading the effort to repeal the limits in 2000 when he served as a state delegate.
The day after voters rejected the measure, he told The Washington Times, “I’m not happy with the outcome. There probably will be another opportunity to vote on the issue again.”
While the charter commission members favored doing away with term limits altogether, they recommended extending the term “as an intermediate step.”
County Council member Mary Lehman disagreed with the notion that term limits should be done away with entirely.