Term Limit Tug-of-War: Harford County Council Divided On How To Limit Tenure


The Harford County Council building in Bel Air. (Credit: Van Fisher/ Patch)

HARFORD COUNTY - The Harford County Council is divided over two competing efforts to institute term limits for council members.

At Tuesday's meeting of the County Council, President Tony Giangiordano and council members James Reilly and Dion Guthrie presented a new term limit bill.

Bill 23-028 would prevent any "person elected or appointed as a member of the county council" from "serving in such office for three consecutive full four-year terms." 

Terms served before the November 2026 election would not count toward the proposed term limits. If passed by the council, the charter amendment would be placed on a ballot referendum in 2024.

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.

The new bill is incredibly similar to Bill 23-016, introduced and subsequently withdrawn by council member Aaron Penman in June.

In a statement to Fox45, Penman criticized the newly proposed bill as self-serving. According to Penman, the phrasing could allow council members to become vested for retirement benefits after ten years of service.

"What that really does is it opens it up to being vested, being able to get benefits and retirement as a council member," Penman said.

Penman has been actively pursuing the establishment of term limits through a petition drive, which kicked off on Saturday.

Currently serving his 13th year on the council, Guthrie countered that the new bill is not about pensions or benefits.

"This is a bill several members wanted to introduce to counter what's being done to be less than that," Guthrie told Fox45. "It could be confusing, but it does give citizens a choice, and they could vote against both of them."

During the 2022 election, Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City voters overwhelmingly passed similar measures. Anne Arundel County voters approved a three-term limit with 77 in favor, and Baltimore City voters passed a two-term limit with 72% in favor.

Before the 2022 election, the Baltimore County Council killed a bill that would have held council members to three four-year terms.

A public hearing on Bill 23-028 has been scheduled for October 2, 2023, at 6:00 PM.

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