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The "Question K" ballot initiative on city term limits: Words matter

Baltimore City Hall-creditBaltOfficePromoandArts.jpg
Baltimore City Hall. A proposed amendment to the city charter -- a November ballot initiative called Question K -- would limit the city's top elected officials to two consecutive terms in office. But there's more to the measure than meets the eye. (photo credit: Baltimore Office of Promotions and the Arts)

Next, an exclusive update to a conversation Tom had on Wednesday's Midday show with former Baltimore mayors Sheilah Dixon and Kurt Schmoke, about an important November ballot initiative.

Mayor Schmoke, a seasoned attorney who now serves as president of the University of Baltimore, pointed out something very interesting about Question K, the ballot referendum that if approved this November, would impose a two-term limit on city office holders in Baltimore.

Here’s what Articles 3-5 of the actual charter amendment (the law) will say regarding term limits if the ballot measure passes:

"Term Limit.

(City Council members, City Council President, Mayor and Comptroller) shall not hold office for more than two (2) consecutive full terms of office and in no event shall hold the office for more than eight (8) years during any twelve (12) year period. This provision shall not preclude an elected member / President / Mayor / Comptroller from seeking other elected offices within Baltimore City after two consecutive terms as member / President / Mayor / Comptroller. In the event that an elected [official] takes office as a result of a removal or vacancy as described in §§ 2 or 6 of this Article, that elected [official] shall only be eligible to hold that office for the remainder of the predecessor’s unexpired term and one (1) consecutive full term thereafter."

Here’s what’s on the ballot summary provided to the Board of Elections, and that voters will see:

"Question K is for the purpose of establishing a two-term limit for Baltimore City elected officials, including the Mayor, Comptroller, City Council President, and City Council members. None of these elected officials shall hold office for more than eight (8) years during any 12-year period. In the event that an elected member takes office as a result of a removal or vacancy as described in §§ 2 or 6 of this Article, that elected member shall only be eligible to hold that office for the remainder of the predecessor’s unexpired term and one (1) consecutive full term thereafter. This amendment would be effective beginnin g with persons elected to the 2024 Baltimore City Election."

The language highlighted in bold in the charter amendment above is omitted from the ballot summary.

Tom explains why, when it comes to voting on charter amendments, what it says on the ballot isn’t always a complete summary of what would end up being law.

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)