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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Term Limits Have Limitations

Idahoans should be asked one last time if they really meant it two years ago when they approved wide-ranging term limits.

Donna Weaver of Hayden Lake, chairwoman of the Citizens for Federal Term Limits campaign, thinks they did. The associations of cities, counties and school administrators think they didn’t.

We tend to agree with the latter.

In 1994, Idahoans swallowed a term-limits measure that was billed as a means of eliminating political careerists and cleaning up Congress. Instead, they got a law that limits the terms of local and state officeholders from school trustee to governor - and doesn’t affect congressmen at all.

The courts later ruled that congressional term limits are unconstitutional.

Now, Idahoans should be asked specifically if they really want their sheriffs to serve only two terms. Or if they really want their county commissioners out of office in six years. Or if they really want their legislators and statewide officeholders to serve only eight years in any 15.

Senate Bill 1218 would allow Idaho voters to answer those questions. The legislation, pushed by cities, counties and school administrators, calls for a statewide vote on amending the 1994 term limits law.

If voters give the 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.

The Spokesman-Review opposes term limits. We believe voters have a right to choose whomever they want to represent them for as long as they want. The term-limits movement is based on the faulty premise that too many scalawags are getting elected to office, particularly to Congress. So, all the “bums” need to be thrown out occasionally to clean up things.

In a recent column, journalist David Broder disputed this theory by commenting: “There are fewer hacks in Congress than when I first visited Capitol Hill 40 years ago - and they are bound by a far tougher standard of ethics than exists in most private occupations or businesses, including journalism.”

Closer to home, most local politicians are hard-working, honest people inspired to serve by a sense of community responsibility. The bad apples are easy to spot and don’t last long in office.

On the other hand, the many good apples should be rewarded with a chance to continue serving.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

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