State lawmakers discuss legislative terms

State lawmakers voted Wednesday to reduce the number of times they have to seek voter approval by half, saying it will lead to better government.

SCR 1009 would amend the Arizona Constitution to have four-year terms for members of both the House and Senate. Now legislators must seek reelection every two years.

The measure, approved by the Senate Government Committee, now goes to the full Senate. But the final word would be up to voters in 2016 who would have to approve the amendment.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, acknowledged that two-year terms give voters more opportunities to dump their elected officials if they don't like what they're doing. And that, he said, is supposed to make them more accountable to voters.

Kavanagh said he wasn't buying it.

"Incumbents rarely lose elections,' he said.

On the other side of the equation, Kavanagh said, is that every two years there are a large number of new lawmakers who are totally unfamiliar with the process.

"I think we can all remember our first year here where the major accomplishment was finding the restroom,' he said, much less learning the process and the rules. Kavanagh also said putting four years between elections means less influence of political donations, though the other side of that means less need of lawmakers to raise money.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said not having to worry about upcoming elections will mean more time to focus on the work that needs to be done.

Support was bipartisan, with Sen. Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, saying there is a long learning curve. But Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, refused to go along, saying he thinks there is something to be said for keeping lawmakers more accountable to voters.


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