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Change to term limits will be on the ballot



Houston voters will decide whether elected city officials should serve two four-year terms rather than three two-year terms starting in 2016, potentially lengthening the terms of some current council members.

The City Council voted 12-5 Wednesday to place the item on the November ballot. Councilmen Richard Nguyen, Mike Laster, Steve Costello, Michael Kubosh and C.O. Bradford voted no.

The change, if passed, would take effect for officials elected this fall. Current freshman council members could pick up two four-year terms and those serving their second term would be permitted one four-year term. Elected officials who are already term-limited would not be affected by the change.

The council has generally supported lengthening terms, but there was debate about whether such a change should go into effect immediately or in 2020, when no current council members would benefit.

See here for the background. Mayor Parker had pushed for a 2020 start date, but CM Jerry Davis’ amendment to move it to 2016 carried the day. As I said before, I don’t consider this an improvement on the current system and I don’t intend to vote Yes. I don’t know if this issue can get a full public hearing or not with HERO also on the ballot, but I do agree with the Chron editorial board about this:

While we agreed with the ad hoc committee on charter reform at the time, new facts on the ground should lead council members to reconsider their votes. Beyond the fight over the equal rights ordinance, changes to fundraising laws also raise additional issues that haven’t yet been considered. City Hall candidates used to be prohibited from raising money for 10 months between election cycles. This blackout ordinance, passed in 1992, was temporarily blocked by a federal judge earlier this year.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, monetary donations to political campaigns are protected as free speech. Houston policy makers have yet to comprehend the long-term local consequences of this ruling. Before moving forward on a vote, City Council should appoint a commission of experts to study how campaign fundraising interacts with term limits.

As you know, that’s singing from my hymnal. It’s not too late to have that conversation about campaign finances regardless of what happens in this referendum. That lawsuit filed by At Large #1 candidate Trebor Gordon, for which the aforementioned injunction was granted, may also force the issue. (A similar lawsuit was filed in Austin two weeks ago as well.) Let’s tackle the whole question, not just a piece of it. Campos has more.

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  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    It is amazing. City Council Members want us to give them more time in office and they will not let us vote on the Food Ordinance. Self serving crap. I will not vote to give them more time in office.

  2. Joshua bullard says:

    I against extending term limtes to the council members -this city is a damn mess and almost broke, our vehicles are falling apart -jerry davis still lives in pearland and these cowards want us to bless them with -4 year presidential terms -jerry davis out to be ashamed with his sorry …..

  3. Steven Houston says:

    PK, while the city is flush with money, the way it is divvied up is so comical that most of them are lucky one of you guys from the county doesn’t start a recall petition every so often.

  4. Paul Kubosh says:

    We had looked at a recall Petition after the Red Light Camera Vote to force the Mayor to take down the cameras. As you recall she was beatable after her first term. However, the restrictions of the Charter make a recall petition against the Mayor almost impossible. Maybe that is good or maybe that is bad. Who knows.