Harford County Council Withdraws Term Limit Bill, Signature Drive Planned For Referendum


HARFORD COUNTY - A bill that would have instituted term limits for Harford County Council members through a voter referendum was withdrawn at Tuesday's council session.

Initially proposed by Aaron Penman and Jessica Boyle-Tsottles, the bill was tabled on May 2 after members Dion Guthrie and James Reilly questioned the need for such legislation. Currently, the county charter doesn't limit the number of terms a council member can serve, unlike the county executive, who is restricted to two terms. Under Bill 23-016, members would have been limited to three four-year terms in office.

Despite the proposed cap, members who had served their three terms would remain eligible to be council president, albeit again for a maximum of three terms. These term restrictions would apply to council terms beginning post-November 2026.

The bill was withdrawn in light of proposed amendments allowing a person to run for three terms, take a one-term hiatus, and then run for an additional three consecutive terms. Penman stated that such a loophole undermined the principle of term limits, and he was unwilling to have his name attached to a proposal he viewed as disingenuous.

"I didn't want to have a product pass that has my name on it. That's disingenuous; that's not what I believe in," Penman said.

Having first raised the issue of term limits in January, where he advocated for a two-term limit, Penman was undeterred by the bill's withdrawal.

He has stated his intention to collect the signatures of 10,000 registered county voters to bring the issue of term limits to a referendum.

The county charter stipulates that a referendum can be initiated if 5% of the county's eligible voters sign a petition in favor.

Council member Jacob Bennett alluded to this method of passing term limits during the council's June 6 meeting.

"There is a little bit of an elephant in the room. If this bill wasn't to pass through us, theres always the opportunity for a council member to go out and get 10,000 signatures," Bennett said.

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