Anne Arundel Bill Weighs Limits on School Board Members Seeking Other Office

Senator Simonaire’s SB 637 Anne Arundel County – Board of Education Member – Limitation on Candidacy for Other Elective Office would prohibit a member of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education from seeking municipal, county, or State office during the two years immediately following the end of the member’s appointed term on the board. The bill was given preliminary approval (preparing it for a final vote) on the Senate floor on March 27, but further debate is expected on the floor as several Senators have raised issues with the bill’s precedent.

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The bill generated an unusual battle over a local bill. The senate narrowly passed SB 637 26-20, though a final vote still needs to take place.

Opponents of the legislation said during the debate that passing the bill would set a dangerous precedent. Sen. Jamie Raskin D-Montgomery County, who is also a law professor at American University, said the legislature should avoid restricting an individual’s right to run for office.

“I think we have to tread very carefully,” he said.

The bill’s sponsor, Anne Arundel Republican Sen. Bryan Simonaire, said the legislation only means to assure that the board’s members are invested solely in their school board position and are not distracted by maintaining a competitive political campaign.

According to the fiscal note, similar provisions have been held constitutional by the US Supreme Court and,

In January 2014, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office advised that legislation similar to the bill could be upheld by a court, if challenged, unless the limitations on candidacy are shown to lack a rational basis, that is “that there are no considerations relating to the public welfare by which it can be supported.”

The bill has a prospective effect, so it does not apply to any member of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education on or before the bill’s effective date of October 1, 2014.