Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Term-limits extension in the works

I have made it clear in the past that I believe that Colorado's term limits severely damage the quality of our legislature. Term limits deprive our legislature of the most-informed and experienced legislators and push our under-staffed legislators into the arms of lobbyists. Our legilsators are asked to work on a wide ranging set of complex issues and it takes years for them to develop an expertise in just a few areas. By the time they are well versed in the issues many are just 2 or 4 years away from exiting the legislature. Every year there is tremendous turnover, next year we'll see a legislature that is 24% new. That slows down the process as veteran legislators help the freshman learn the ropes of policy and the legislative process. Instiutional and policy knowledge is unnecessarily forced out the door every year.

Rep. Alice Borodkin is working on a ballot initiative for 2009 that would extend term limits from 8 years in the House and Senate to 12 years in both chambers. The Colorado House Democrats Blog reports,

The measure, which Rep. Borodkin hopes to push in the 2009 legislative session, needs a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate to put the referred measure on the ballot and a majority vote of the people in November of 2009 before it could change the current law.

Rep. Borodkin has the backing of the League of Women voters and hopes to work with them this summer to discuss pushing the referendum.

It should be noted that Borodkin is herself term-limited from the House this year. She is currently running to fill term-limited Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon's seat. This is obviously an astute political move as much as it is an astute policy maneuver. Still Borodkin should be applauded for proposing this simple yet effective extension. Eliminating term limits altogether is not only politically untenable but also electorally improbable. Extension of terms is a responsible and pragmatic solution to the issues raised by term limits.

UPDATE: A commenter raises an interesting point - state ballot initiatives are restricted to TABOR related issues in odd years. It's unclear to me whether or not this also applies to referred measures that are placed on the ballot by the legislature. I don't have access to Colorado revised Statutes at the moment to check myself but if someone out there does let us know what it says.


Anonymous said...

Not sure how this could make the 2009 statewide ballot. Only TABOR related measures can qualify for odd years.

Anonymous said...

The CRS citation is: 1-41-102.

It's why referenda like TRANS bonds (1999), Ref A (2003) and Ref C (2005) were on the ballot in odd years. The legislature can vote on a term limits referendum in 2009, but it can't go to the ballot until 2010.

Steam Powered Opinions said...

Thanks. Yes I knew the citation I just don't have a chance to check it.

Now that I think about it I guess Ref C was a referred measure coming from a Romanoff sponsored House bill if I remember correctly.

Thanks for chiming in

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Nice idea, but politically DOA.

Term limits waivers and extensions that have passed have mostly been driven by a shortage of good candidates in small cities, counties and local governments. No shut shortage of qualified candidates for the General Assembly exists.

I would suspect that the polling would show the proposal to be hopeless standing alone.