By Daniel Menefee
A vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the mandatory retirement age of judges from 70 to 72 has been put on hold until Friday, when floor amendments will be offered.
“If we raise the mandatory retirement age by two years, we could reduce in some small part the pension demand,” said Joe Getty, R-Baltimore County, a member of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. The bill is sponsored by Sen. J.B. Jennings.
Many states have retirement ages of 72. Vermont’s retirement age is 90.
There are 18 states that have no mandatory retirement age and 33 other states have mandatory retirement ages that average around 72, Getty said.
There are nine states currently looking to reconsider the retirement age of their judiciaries. Virginia is looking to raise its retirement age to 73, Getty said.
Sen. James DeGrange opposed the bill and said the Judicial Compensation Commission should decide the issue of retirement age, not the legislature.
“The commission meets and they present to us a rationale for increases in benefits and salaries,” DeGrange said to Getty on the Senate floor Wednesday. “[Retirement age] is something the commission should look at instead of just arbitrarily bringing a bill before the General Assembly that nobody asked for.”
The commission recommends compensation increases every four years and the legislature must amend, reject, or adopt the increases within 50 days of the recommendation. Otherwise, the recommended increases are automatic.
Judges received a raise on March 12 of up to $14,500 that will be phased in through 2017.
The raises angered many lawmakers because the state is struggling reconcile a $1 billion budget deficit, but the raises were half of what the commission originally recommended on Jan. 27.
Getty said that retirement age of judges is reviewed regularly in Maryland and many other state legislatures on a regular basis.
Currently in Maryland, judges can work part-time as retired judge after age 70. With pensions, they can earn the same salary as a full-time judge.
Maryland voted on a constitutional amendment in 1994 to increase the retirement age to 75 but the amendment was rejected by the voters at the ballot box by a vote of 571,995 to 534,681.
The bill under consideration in the Senate must pass by a simple majority on second reader and then by a three-fifths majority (29 votes) on the final vote before it can go to the House.
There are 47 state senators and 141 delegates in the Maryland General Assembly. The House would need an 85-vote majority to pass the bill, and the governor would not be required to sign it.