An initiative petition aimed at limiting the terms of county, state and federal elected officials has been submitted to the lieutenant governor's office by the Independent Party of Utah.
The initiative would cap the terms of county and state officeholders at eight years and U.S. Senate and House members at 12.The effort is the third such campaign by the Independent Party, which led a tax limitation movement in 1988 and fronted last year's initiative to repeal the state sales tax on food. All of the measures were rejected by voters.
The term-limitation initiative, which would take effect in 1995, has been referred to the attorney general's office for legal review, said Deputy Lt. Gov. Dave Hansen.
Hansen said the review should take no longer than two weeks and then, if there are no hitches, the Independent Party will get the green light to begin gathering signatures.
If enough registered voters sign the petitions, the initiative would go before the 1994 session of the Legislature. If rejected there, it would then be placed on the 1994 general election ballot for voter approval.
The eight-year limit on county and state officials would include all countywide offices, legislative seats and statewide offices from the governor down.
It does not include municipal offices and school boards and does not prohibit elected officials from moving from one office to another, such as from the House to the Senate.
Danny Blaylock, the party's Weber County chairman, said party officials decided to delay the effective date until 1995 so that term limitation would not affect current officeholders.
Time spent in office before then would not be counted.
"Nobody's going to get cut off at the pass on this," Blaylock said. "We took great pains not to hurt those currently holding office."
The limits also would be for consecutive years, meaning an elected official could serve up to the limit, drop out for one term, then start over again, said Ed Little of Kaysville, the party's executive director.
Little said the initiative contains a provision that allows the limits on state and county offices to stand even if those on the federal offices are stricken by courts as discriminatory to national officeholders from Utah.
Part of the attorney general's review will include a legal opinion on whether term limits can be imposed through state statute, as the initiative calls for, or whether it requires a change in the Utah Constitution.
If the attorney general says it requires a constitutional change, the initiative would be rejected.
But Little said the party's attorneys determined that limits can be imposed through state statute.
To qualify, the petition would need signatures of roughly 65,000 registered voters, or 10 percent of those who voted in the 1988 gubernatorial election.