Ky. Republicans pushing term changes and limits for Congress, state legislature

02/14/2011 08:12 AM

Several proposals to alter the terms of state and federal legislators — and place caps on their years of service — have surfaced and are gaining notice in Frankfort and Washington.

Last week, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul signed on to a Congressional proposal offered by Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana for a constitutional amendment that would limit a person’s term in Congress to six two-year terms in the House and two six-year terms in the Senate.

Former Republican Congressman Ron Lewis, who represented the 2nd District from 1994 through 2008, said on Pure Politics Friday that he supported 12-year caps but backed a bill while he was in Congress that would change terms in the U.S. House to four years instead of two.

“I really think we ought to eliminate these elections every two years because it just requires so much times for members to raise that money and campaign, it just takes away from what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said. And Lewis added that term limits of 12 years was “long enough” for lawmakers to learn the ropes but not get stale.

“They could actually win an election, and get to work on what they’re supposed to be doing … knowing the constitution had limited them to 12 years,” Lewis said.

When Lewis first won a special election to Congress in 1994 he pledged to serve just four terms. But he later backed away from that promise, telling the Lexington Herald-Leader in 2000 that, “I made a mistake of a novice. Until you’re here you don’t understand. You don’t get things done very quickly in Congress.”

He explained that under the current system, a member of Congress who self imposed term limits would risk being marginalized.

“I had the opportunity to get on the Ways and Means Committee. But if they knew that I had term limited myself at a certain date, then I never would have gotten on that committee,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the state legislature, freshman Republican Rep. Mike Nemes of Louisville has proposed a constitutional amendment to extend state House terms from two years to four and cap state Senate terms from four years to six and cap terms of service in each chamber at 12 years.

Nemes said in an interview Saturday that his proposal wouldn’t block someone from serving 12 years in the House and then running for a Senate seat or vice versa.

Republican Rep. Ron Crimm of Louisville filed similar legislation that would extend the terms — but it didn’t include the term limits provision.

That constitutional amendment wouldn’t get support from many voters, Nemes said.

“They’re wanting turnover,” he said.

It’s unlikely the proposal will go very far this term. Generally the legislature prefers to pass no more than one constitutional amendment at a time to put on the ballot for voters’ approval. The House, last week, passed a constitutional amendment that would protect hunting and fishing rights.

- Ryan Alessi


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.