Lawmakers in the N.C. House on Tuesday voted down a proposal to extend state legislators’ terms to four years while adding term limits.
House Bill 193 would have scheduled a November 2018 constitutional referendum on the proposal. Voters would have been asked if they wanted to give legislators four-year terms – instead of the current two-year terms – and limit lawmakers to three terms in office, or 12 years total.
Starting in 2022, elections for House and Senate would be held in even-numbered years when races for governor and president aren’t on the ballot. Those elections have typically seen smaller turnout than in presidential election years.
The House Elections Committee rejected the bill in a 10-13 vote, with some Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. The vote means the bill can’t be considered again this legislative session.
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It’s unusual for bills to fail after receiving a committee hearing because most legislation is discussed first among Republicans.
“I want to be able to replace my representative if they come up here and they don’t do the job they said they were going to do,” said Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican. “I don’t want to wait four years to get somebody out of here.”
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Harry Warren of Salisbury, said two-year terms mean legislators are “involved in politicking more than half the time.”
“It’s just an endless cycle of campaigning and fundraising, and I think the general public is tired of that,” Warren said. “This would also reduce the workload on local and state boards of elections.”
But Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat, noted that members of the U.S. House of Representatives also serve just two years. “I don’t see any big push to make congressional seats any longer than two years,” he said. “I think that this keeps us in front of the people and we don’t need to touch it any way at all.”
Before the bill failed, House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson successfully passed an amendment that would have doubled the “cooling off period” during which outgoing legislators must wait before registering as lobbyists.