Independent Party leadership voted Saturday to aim for 1994 to place on Utah ballots the issue of limiting the terms of elected officials.
Meeting at the home of party Chairman Merrill Cook, central committee members elected to submit the proposed petition for the change to Lt. Gov. Val Oveson by May 1. If approved, the next three years would be spent gathering signatures and widespread support for the change.Oveson has already asked Attorney General Paul Van Dam for an opinion on whether term limitations can take effect through statute, via a citizens' petition, or whether the Legislature must change the Utah Constitution. Constitutional changes cannot be initiated by a petition drive.
Cook said if Van Dam requires a constitutional change, the Independents will take the matter to court for a second opinion.
"Just because one state official doesn't agree doesn't mean we are going to roll over and die," he said.
The petition asks for changes in Utah law that would set time limitations on county, state and federal elected offices. Those running for a state or county office could not have held that office for more than eight years. A congressional or Senate candidate from Utah couldn't have held that office for more than 12 years.
The petition also asks Utahns to support a nationwide limit of 12 years for U.S. Senate and House seats.
Committee members were cautiously pleased by the results of a Saturday Deseret News/KSL-TV poll that shows a majority of Utahns supporting term limitations on the state and federal level.
"Lest we get too buoyed, don't forget that food tax and tax limitation were also way ahead in early polls," Cook reminded party leaders, referring to their past failed attempts at radical change through initiative petitions.
While Independents will take the issue to court to get it on the ballot, Cook and other party leaders stressed the importance of not turning the issue into a battle of the Independent Party vs. Utah's power brokers.
The decision to wait until 1994 instead of rushing to get it on the 1992 ballot was primarily based on giving the party enough time to gain widespread support for changing elected office terms.
Salt Lake County party chairman Greg Beesley said the Independents must win the support of Utah's influential institutions before even gathering signatures. Some of the power brokers mentioned that must be won over were the media, Democratic and Republican parties, and education groups.
"If we don't get the blessing from these institutions, then it will be a waste of time," Beesley said. "We can't go at it as the Independent Party alone."
How to gain support of major political powers wasn't discussed, but some ideas on how not to drive them away were mentioned.
If term limitation were put on the 1992 ballot, Cook said supporters could alienate supporters of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who couldn't run for re-election in 1994 if the initiative passed. Cook predicted that Hatch would work behind the scenes to defeat the measure in 1992, but wouldn't oppose term limitation the same year he runs for re-election.
In addition to gaining support from influential Utahns, party leaders said they must also conduct a grass-roots campaign highlighting the virtues of term limitation - such as it giving women and minorities a better opportunity to run for elected office.
Cook and other party leaders agreed that it would be best if a more influential group took the lead on the issue and Independents took a back seat.
But they weren't confident of that happening. Taking petitions door-to-door only gets done by "crazies" who believe in the cause, Cook said.