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Term-limit, change tweaked, then killed

Term-limit, change tweaked, then killed

Voters probably won't get chance in 2016 to alter current 8-year cap on a lawmakers time in office

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Term-limit, change tweaked, then killed

Paul Schumacher

He said he won't try again next year because that would leave too little time to build support for a change.

LINCOLN — Nebraska voters won't have to consider adding time to the terms of their state senators after all.

Two weeks after advancing a proposal to loosen term limits with two votes to spare, Nebraska lawmakers killed an amended version of the measure Monday. This time the measure came up five votes short of what it needed to advance to the third round of consideration.

Senators defeated the proposal, Legislative Resolution 7CA, shortly after amending it to ask voters to approve a limit of two six-year terms.

The proposal that had advanced from first-round debate, by a vote of 27-12, called for a limit of three four-year terms — the same total amount of time in office, but with one more re-election along the way.

The 22-20 vote Monday means Nebraskans probably won't be asked in 2016 whether to amend the current limit: two four-year terms.

Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus, who introduced LR 7CA, said he had no plan to try again next year. Even if a proposal passed, he said, backers wouldn't have enough time to build public support for the change.

Nebraska voters adopted term limits in 2000. In 2012 about 65 percent of them rejected a proposal to offer future state senators the pos-

sibility of another four-year term, or 12 years in all.

Schumacher's proposal would have needed at least 30 senators' support on final round because it involved a constitutional amendment.

He said he thought his plan to allow a pair of six-year terms would have stood a better chance at the ballot box because it would not have changed the number of terms, just their length. He argued that the extra time in office would let lawmakers learn the legislative ropes and be more effective.

Schumacher noted that 12 of the Legislature's 18 newest senators either voted against his resolution or abstained.

"The freshmen," he said, "haven't been here long enough to realize you don't know what you don't know."

Sen. Joni Craighead of Omaha was one of six senators to switch her vote. After backing the measure in the first round she was criticized in a mailer circulated by a Florida group called U.S. Term Limits.

That did not prompt her vote change, she said Monday. Instead, she said, she decided that voters had spoken definitively three years ago.

"I did get a lot of feedback from constituents, but on both sides of the issue," she said. "It was pretty mixed."

Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom had vowed to launch a "Don't Touch Term Limits" campaign.

Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue abstained on the first round but voted against the measure Monday. She said she personally opposes term limits but that the voters have spoken. In addition, she disagreed that newly elected senators can't be effective.

"We can step in and be highly functional from year one," she said. New senators "are no longer expected to come in, sit down and shut up."

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