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Term Limits Lands Before Voters Again Earlier Vote’s Effect Nears For Local Officials, School Boards

For the third election in a row, Idaho voters will be asked to cast ballots on the issue of term limits.

The Senate late Tuesday voted 22-11 for House-passed legislation calling for an advisory vote this fall on whether the 1994 term limits initiative should remain on the books.

Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Twiggs, R-Blackfoot, maintained that the public pulse on the popular issue needs to be taken again now that the term limit provisions for Congress have been voided by the Supreme Court.

Twiggs maintained that voters approved the initiative in 1994 to get at Congress, even though it covered all state and local officials as well. School board members and county commissioners will be affected in 2000 if the limits are allowed to stand.

“The time is right for us to do this,” Twiggs said. “Term limits will start impacting local officials, school boards. It would be very self-serving if we put this off, see the effects and then ask the people to vote on it. … If the people indicate they still want term limits, then fine.”

The term limits law does not bar incumbents from running for re-election but keeps their names off the ballot. An incumbent still could run as a write-in.

The vote would only serve as a guide to lawmakers, who would still have to pass legislation repealing or modifying the initiative. Advocates of repeal maintain small rural communities and counties already have trouble finding people willing to serve and term limits only gives people excuses to stop serving. They also maintain that legislative limits are unnecessary considering the significant turnover every decade and would give significant power to lobbyists and bureaucrats.

But backers of the term limits propositions claim the people have already voted twice for them - on the original initiative in 1994 and on one voided by the courts in 1996 that was intended to force term limits on Congress.

And even some term limit critics question the wisdom of yet another vote, fearing affirmation of term limits will eliminate any options to solve what they see as a problem.

Twiggs, however, disagreed.

“They have not said no three times on this issue,” Twiggs said. “The first time it was Congress. The second time it had nothing to do with this. It’s a different question. It hasn’t been answered before.”

Gov. Phil Batt recommended passage of legislation allowing voters in cities, counties and school districts to decide whether they wanted term limits on their officials or not.

xxxx BALLOT BOX The vote would only serve as a guide to lawmakers, who would still have to pass legislation repealing or modifying the initiative.

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