ND lawmakers already tinkering with ‘modification’ of new term limits

Last year voters made North Dakota the first state in more than twenty years to impose term limits on the time legislators and the governor remain in office. Almost two-thirds of the voters supported the constitutional amendment to restrict state representatives and senators to eight consecutive years in office, as well as a two-term cut-off for governors.

Yet the clock had barely started ticking on the term limits that took effect in January when legislators began tinkering with it. Not surprisingly, the new and improved proposed term limits would extend the time lawmakers remain in office by 50 percent, according to Forum News.

The House panel amended the resolution to impose term limits of 12 consecutive years each in the House and Senate, with at least a four-year break before those lawmakers could run to serve again for another 12 consecutive years. Members who completed serving partial terms would be eligible to serve 12 more consecutive years.

The same limits would apply to all elected executive branch officials, such as the attorney general and secretary of state.

“The people of North Dakota have spoken. They said they want term limits, so this is a modification of the current term limit law. This is not a throwing out of term limits. It’s just a modification,” [Republican Rep. Jim] Kasper told the House panel.

The leader of the successful campaign to pass term limits strongly criticized lawmakers’ attempt to relax the rules on time in office.

Measure Chairman Jared Hendrix opposes Kasper’s resolution, calling it unconstitutional and saying a potential lawsuit would be a “frivolous expenditure of state funds.”

He called Kasper’s proposal “effectively not term limits,” amounting to “48 years between both chambers.”

Hendrix said the measure “could be worth supporting” if amended to bring the other statewide officeholders in line with the term limits voters approved for the governor and the Legislature.

Regardless, it’s not as simple to undo the number of years lawmakers hold down their office or make any other changes. The constitutional amendment contained a key provision that prohibits legislators from unilaterally changing the language approved by voters. So any legislation to change the current 8-year term limits on the books would need to go back before the electorate for approval.