Lawmakers seeking limits on term limits

Posted on May 5, 2007

Lawmakers seeking limits on term limits

Lawmakers seeking limits on term limits


Staff Writer

Kennebec Journal - Morning Sentinel

Saturday, May 5, 2007

AUGUSTA -- The League of Women Voters of Maine opposed term limits before voters implemented them in 1993. They continue to oppose them today.

Ann Luther, president of the league, told members of the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee Friday that term limits have shifted power away from the Legislature and toward the executive branch. And they haven't increased competition for legislative seats.

"Term limits violate the ultimate right of voters to choose the representatives who best serve the needs of their district and the state of Maine," she said.

Luther testified in favor of Legislative Document 42, a bill sponsored by Sen. Ethan Strimling, D-Portland. His bill seeks to abolish the eight-year limits on legislative service, but gives voters the final say by sending the item out to referendum.

Strimling sponsored a similar bill last legislative session that got approval in both the House and Senate on initial votes. It ultimately failed, but Strimling said he hopes that momentum will help the bill get through this time.

"I would encourage you to do anything you can to change our term limit laws," he said.

In 1993, Maine voters approved term limits by a vote of 68 percent to 32 percent. Since then, there have been several attempts to change the law.

In Maine, legislators are prevented from serving more than eight consecutive years in the House or Senate, but they can switch back and forth between chambers without an interruption in service.

Those who argued in favor of scrapping the term limit system said legislators don't have the "institutional memory" they need to serve effectively, and that power has been shifted to lobbyists, long-time bureaucrats and the governor's office.

The one person who spoke against Strimling's bill said lawmakers shouldn't try to change what the voters put in place.

"People who are in for longer periods get altogether too familiar with the ropes," said Julian Holmes of Wayne.

The committee, which is scheduled to vote on the bills May 11, considered a second bill Friday that would extend term limits for House members by two years. Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, said the House suffers from a lack of experience.

"Let's tweak it by two years and at least improve the situation," said Mills, who's served in both the House and Senate.

His bill does not seek voter approval.

Common Cause Maine said it also supports making changes to term limit laws.

Jon Bartholomew of Common Cause said there should continue to be limits on how long lawmakers can hold leadership positions, but there should not be a limit on how long someone can serve.

"We need more of a scalpel than a cudgel to deal with the issue of a government that has consolidated power," he said.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan nonprofit advocacy organization that helps citizens make their voices heard in the political process and holds elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

Susan Cover -- 623-1056

Date: 5/5/2007 12:00:00 AM

Office: Common Cause Maine

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