Julian Ivey Seeks to Go Pro

Delegate wants to start down the road of making the Maryland General Assembly a full-time legislature

Enough with this Special Session Stuff

A Constitutional Amendment that has gotten little attention would require the General Assembly to expand its session every year.

Under the proposed amendment, the General Assembly would meet for 90 Days still at the beginning of each year. But also for 30 days in June. And for 30 days in October:

The General Assembly may continue its JANUARY session so long as in its judgment the public interest may require, for a period not longer than ninety days in each year. The ninety days shall be consecutive unless otherwise provided by law. The General Assembly may extend its JANUARY session beyond ninety days, but not exceeding an additional thirty days, by resolution concurred in by a three–fifths vote of the membership in each House. THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY MAY CONTINUE ITS JUNE SESSION SO LONG AS IN ITS JUDGMENT THE PUBLIC INTEREST MAY REQUIRE, FOR A PERIOD NOT LONGER THAN THIRTY DAYS IN EACH YEAR. THE THIRTY DAYS SHALL BE CONSECUTIVE UNLESS OTHERWISE PROVIDED BY LAW. THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY MAY CONTINUE ITS OCTOBER SESSION SO LONG AS IN ITS JUDGMENT THE PUBLIC INTEREST MAY REQUIRE, FOR A PERIOD NOT LONGER THAN THIRTY DAYS IN EACH YEAR. THE THIRTY DAYS SHALL BE CONSECUTIVE UNLESS OTHERWISE PROVIDED BY LAW. When the General Assembly is convened by Proclamation of the Governor, the session shall not continue longer than thirty days, but no additional compensation other than mileage and other allowances provided by law shall be paid members of the General Assembly for special session.

In his testimony before the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, Ivey makes virtually no case for passing the Amendment and gives no real rhyme or reason behind passing the Amendment. Only when pressed by Delegate Wendell Beitzel does he concede that the Amendment gives legislators more time to pass bills. His only real argument here is that the General Assembly cedes certain budgetary authority to the Board of Public Works when the General Assembly is not in session.

Regardless of your opinion on the budgetary matters, this would explode the General Assembly into nearly a full-time legislative body, with the General Assembly sitting for 150 days every year instead of the current 90.

Comically, the Amendment would require Senators and Delegates to be in Session during the June Primary Election and right before the November General Election. Something that noted by Delegate Reilly.

Ivey actually torpedoes his own Amendment by conceding to Reilly that the entire exercise is “just a placeholder to start a conversation” and then Committee Chair Anne Healey buries it by pointing out how there have been two special sessions during her time and one of them killed her business.

What’s the real point of this? It seems like Ivey is making the point that the General Assembly should have been called into Special Session last year during the early days of the Pandemic when the Board of Public Works was making budget cuts. But I think there is an ulterior, unspoken motive here as well.

We have heard previously that there are too many bills every year that don’t get enough of a quality hearing. Some have proposed to cap the number of bills that can be introduced each year. But Ivey takes a different tact and wants to expand the length of the Session in order to give more bills a chance to pass. This gets the nose of the camel under the tent as it relates to making the General Assembly a full-time legislature, something that some Democrats have proposed in the past.

There are ten states considered to have full-time legislatures:

  • California

  • Michigan

  • New York

  • Pennsylvania

  • Alaska

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois

  • Massachusetts

  • Ohio

  • Wisconsin

It’s not a coincidence that several of those states, notably California, Hawaii, Illinois, and New York, have massive state governments, bloated budgets, and gigantic deficits. Ivey’s plan would move Maryland toward this misguided direction.

Ivey’s Amendment isn’t going anywhere for now. But sometimes these bonkers ideas grow hair and become law. Something to keep an eye on for the future.