Pundits Debate Merits of Full-Time Maryland Legislature

With the conclusion of Maryland’s first 2012 special session still recent, several commentators have debated whether or not it makes sense to move Maryland from a 90-day “part-time” legislature to a “full-time” legislature that would meet throughout the year.

Todd Eberly made the proposal for a full-time legislature in an April 26 Free Stater Blog article, arguing that a full-time legislature would be more professional, better equipped to study and address Maryland’s budget and growth challenges, and more responsive to constituent concerns than a part-time legislature.

Every year the General Assembly convenes in January and embarks on a hectic 90 day legislative marathon that ends in early April. Every year there are hundreds of bills left unpassed and dozens of issues left unaddressed as the constraints of the 90 day session force everything into a position secondary to the budget. For 90 days, the voices of every day Marylanders are drowned out by a horde of lobbyists camped out in Annapolis.  …

What would a full-time legislature deliver to the states? Studies show that full-time legislatures spend more time responding to constituent demands and are more responsive to constituents. Full-time legislatures are more prone to enact governmental reforms, especially with regard to personnel. Full-time legislatures demonstrate more efficient legislating (as opposed to what we just witnessed) and a greater willingness to enact more complex measures.

MarylandReporter.com’s Len Lazarik countered the idea in a May 21 article, arguing that states with full-time or almost full-time legislatures are often worse off than Maryland.  He cites California, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey as prime examples.

The states that make lawmaking full-time don’t  really seem more wise or productive, despite higher pay and bigger staffs.  …

Some people have taken to calling Maryland “California East,” but we’ll take  Maryland’s budget problems over Sacramento’s $16 billion deficit any day. In  March, the New York Times reported, Albany had “one of the  smoothest state budget negotiations at the Capitol in years,” passing the budget  TWO DAYS before the start of the fiscal year. It was “the first time the  Legislature had approved a state spending plan with more than 24 hours to spare  since 1983,” said the Times.

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