ANNAPOLIS -- No state legislator likes to be told he's lazy and unresponsive, especially not by his colleagues and particularly not by first-term Republicans.
Members of a House of Delegates committee lit into two young delegates yesterday who told them that state lawmakers become less effective the longer they're in office.
Dels. James F. Ports Jr. and Alfred W. Redmer Jr., Baltimore County Republicans elected in 1990, ruffled a few feathers when theytestified on their bill to limit delegates and senators to three terms each.
"I think this system would be better served by more turnover," Mr. Redmer told the House Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee.
A number of committee members, both long-time delegates and newer ones, were taken aback.
Several asked Delegates Ports and Redmer to be more specific about problems they believe occur when a delegate or senator serves more than three terms.
"I'm not going to give names," Mr. Ports replied.
"I'm not going to to sit here and tell you which legislators are effective and which ones aren't effective," Mr. Redmer said.
"So you haven't been around long enough to know what you want to get rid of?" Chairwoman Anne S. Perkins, D-Baltimore, asked pointedly.
"When you've been here a long time, you lose your dynamic," Mr. Ports replied.
Ms. Perkins said voters -- not term limits -- take care of ineffective legislators by throwing them out. Other opponents said term limits would prevent voters from keeping a favorite legislator in office.
Voters in Dorchester County have been electing Democrat Frederick C. Malkus Jr. to the state Senate since 1950, before Delegates Ports and Redmer were born.
"Are you saying the voters in Senator Malkus' district are doing something wrong?" Ms. Perkins asked.
"Why does Senator Malkus get elected?" Mr. Ports responded. "I don't know."
The hearing got hotter when U.S. Senate hopeful Alan L. Keyes suggested that legislators' terms -- and their power -- should be limited because power corrupts.
Mr. Keyes and some delegates engaged in a lengthy and at times academic discussion about the nature of power and the framers of the Constitution before patience with him wore thin.
Del. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Baltimore, picked up what appeared to be a copy of Mr. Keyes' testimony and called it "a piece of crap."
Committee members, and Delegates Ports and Redmer, say they don't believe the term limit bill will pass.