Just before the Montgomery County Council began its summer recess Tuesday, it approved resolutions paving the way for a term limit question on the November ballot that could force as many as five members from the council in 2018.
The council unanimously approved language for a ballot question that would limit members and the county executive to three consecutive terms. The vote occurred before an expected petition to add the question to the November ballot had been turned into the county.
Republican activist Robin Ficker has been leading the drive to obtain 10,000 signatures to put the question on the ballot. Ficker said in an email to Bethesda Beat this week he plans to hand in the signatures Aug. 8, the county’s deadline to submit a petition for consideration.
Council President Nancy Floreen said Tuesday the council was unanimously opposed to term limits, but had to approve the language as a precautionary measure in case Ficker’s petition is certified later this month. The council is scheduled to return to session in September.
Ficker said in April he and volunteers have collected more than 11,000 signatures and had planned to get more before delivering the petition to the county.
Once he turns it in, the county’s Board of Elections has until Aug. 31 to verify the signatures, which includes making sure the names appear as they do on statewide voter registration lists.
If the question is added to the ballot and term limits are approved by a majority of voters, council members Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal would be forced out of office in 2018. A fifth council member, Nancy Navarro, may also be affected. Navarro was first elected in May 2009 to a partial term and was then reelected to two full four-year terms in 2010 and 2014.
The council also approved language for another ballot question Tuesday that would define a partial term as more than two years on the council.
That means that if voters approve the definition of a partial term as more than two years, Navarro would be able to run for a third term. However, if they don’t approve the partial term definition, but do approve term limits, it’s unclear how she would be affected, county legislative attorney Josh Hamlin said Friday.
The term limit ballot question would also prevent County Executive Ike Leggett from running for a fourth term in 2018, although a spokesman for Leggett has said the county executive does not plan to run for re-election.
Ficker previously attempted to limit council members and the county executive to two terms by leading petition drives in 2000 and 2004 to put a term limit question on the ballot. In both years voters narrowly defeated the proposal.
Opposition to term limits is beginning to mount, with former Rockville City Council member Tom Moore saying late last month he would lead an effort to defeat the question if it’s added to the ballot.
On Tuesday, council members voted to approve the following language for the term limit question, which would alter the county’s charter: