Area lawmaker's bill seeks term limits for Texas elected officials
March 11, 2013 at 10 p.m.
A bill to limit the Texas governor, agriculture commissioner and other statewide elected offices to two terms won approval Monday from the Senate State Affairs Committee.
The bill's author, Sen. Kevin Eltife of Tyler, said afterward that his measure does not include state senators and representatives because he wants it to succeed.
"I've always been a supporter of term limits," the Republican said, noting his own tenure as Tyler mayor had ended on a term limit. "I would be fine with term limits on my own office, absolutely. But you've got to start somewhere."
The measure grandfathers statewide office holders.
Eltife's Senate Joint Resolution 13 would ask voters in November to decide whether to put the limits into the state constitution. It must win a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature for a constitutional amendment referendum to be called.
The senator told the State Affairs Committee that term limits create the opportunity for more diverse voices in state government. It's a rare candidate who will risk the resources necessary to go up against a longtime, statewide incumbent, he said.
"The higher up the food chain, the harder it is to have competitive races," he said. "This creates open seats, debate. It would create more competition and more open seats."
The measure does not apply to statewide judicial offices.
The bill was backed during Monday's public hearing by Texans for Term Limits founder George Seay, who said eight out of 10 Texans polled favor term limits. He did not give Vice Chairman Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, a reason why voters repeatedly re-elect incumbents.
Eltife said he also favors term limits for House and Senate members. He did not include them to boost the chances the resolution will pass the two-thirds benchmark.
"It's pretty narrow by design, because I wanted a chance to pass it," Eltife said. "What I really want is an opportunity to get something to voters. ... The political reality is, if I had the state Legislature in the bill it would be dead on arrival."
The measure, which goes to the Senate for debate, restricts a statewide office holder to a maximum of two consecutive terms. An official could seek another statewide office, however, such as a lieutenant governor running for governor.
Eltife also stressed the resolution is not aimed at today's office holders. He added he has not heard from Gov. Rick Perry or other office holders who would be affected by the measure's passage.