When Idahoans voted for a sweeping term limits initiative in 1994, they didn’t really want to limit school trustees and sheriffs.
That’s the contention of the Idaho associations of cities, counties and school administrators. The three groups have joined together to propose legislation amending Idaho’s term limits law.
“All we did was ready, aim and shoot ourselves in the foot with this one,” Scott McDonald of the Association of Idaho Cities said of the 1994 measure.
Idahoans wanted to enact term limits on Congress, McDonald said. But that portion of the initiative was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court, leaving only the local and state limits.
The law now limits school board members and county commissioners to six years in office in any 11 years and legislators, statewide officials and other county officeholders to eight years in any 15.
The bill, SB1218, calls for a statewide vote on whether to amend the term limits law. If the voters gave their OK, the measure would:
Eliminate limits for school trustees and for county sheriffs, prosecutors, treasurers and auditors.
Allow limits for county commissioners, mayors and city council members only by a local vote.
Expand statewide elected officials’ term limits from eight years to 12, and state legislators’ limits from eight years in each house to 12.
Donna Weaver, chairman of the Hayden Lake-based Citizens for Federal Term Limits campaign, called the associations’ bill a “perfectly ridiculous piece of legislation.”
“I don’t happen to think that 24 years is very much of a limit,” Weaver said. “I don’t see how that makes you a citizen lawmaker.”
Weaver said she doesn’t oppose allowing local votes on local term limits.
“I think people overwhelmingly support term limits at all levels,” she said.
She added, “I’m not sure how much of this bellyaching is not coming from these careerists in the Legislature who just want everyone to believe that we didn’t intend to have term limits on them.”
But McDonald said, “It puts it back to a vote of the people.”
“Basically, the three associations have said, hey, we have a tough time finding mayors to run,” he said.
Many citizens feel “they’re glad someone has enough civic duty to do it,” McDonald said. “It is not a highpaying job to be the mayor of Shoshone, or even a city councilwoman in Orofino.”
McDonald said he doesn’t feel Idaho needs term limits on its Legislature either, since the entire Legislature is up for election every two years. But, he said, “We’re not likely to get the Legislature to exempt itself - that’s too self-serving.”
The bill doesn’t touch the federal term-limits issue.
“That’s somebody else’s bag,” McDonald said. “We’re not tampering with what the voters wanted to do nationally.”
But the law needs fixing, he said. “We want the citizens to know that we want them to have another vote on the issue.”