The movement for campaign and legislative reform in the 1991 Legislature, which convenes Monday, got a boost Wednesday when Lt. Gov. Val Oveson and Rep. Bill Wright, R-Elberta, announced their plans to seek a constitutional amendment limiting the terms of lawmakers, the governor and other state elected officials to eight consecutive years.
If approved by two-thirds of the Utah House and Senate, the amendment will go before voters in the 1992 general election. After that date, all legislators and state elected officials - the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor and treasurer - could only serve eight years in office.After eight years, they'd have to leave that office. They could serve in some other elected state or legislative office or could come back and serve in their original office again after being out of office for one term.
For example, the governor could only serve two consecutive four-year terms. A state House member could serve only four consecutive two-year terms, and a state senator could serve only two consecutive four-year terms. However, one could serve eight years in the House, then eight years in the Senate and then eight years as governor.
"Term limitation has been talked about since the (U.S.) Constitution was first adopted," said Oveson. Considering the high re-election rate of incumbents- especially congressmen, senators and Utah legislators - "it's time to stop talking and act," Oveson said.
Wright's bill doesn't address term limitations for the congressional delegation. "I'll deal with that in a separate bill," he said. Last November, Colorado voters approved a term limitation for their U.S. senators and representatives. Most believe it is unconstitutional to limit those terms through state law. "That (Colorado law) will be challenged, I'm sure," said Oveson. "But we support it, and if it appears that we could do that, I'm sure an effort will be made."
Oveson heads Gov. Norm Bangerter's Election Law Task Force, upon which Wright serves. The task force isn't formally endorsing Wright's bill, since some members, like House Majority Whip Byron Harward, R-Provo, don't believe in term limitations.
The task force did endorse a bill that would require legislators and state elected officials to file campaign contribution disclosures in off-election years.
Currently, legislators only file one campaign financial report, 30 days after the November election. They only include funds raised and spent from the April 15 candidate filing deadline to election day. Thus, House members, who serve two-year terms, can raise and spend the funds - on anything they see fit, even themselves - for 18 months without reporting. Senators, who serve four-year terms, can raise and spend funds for 31/2 years without reporting.
The governor and other state elected officials do have to report campaign finances before an election - but not during off years. They'd also have to report in off years if the task force bill, sponsored by Harward, passes.