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Arthur Schechter

Term limits commission makes its recommendation

The Term Limits Commission finished its work on Monday and voted on a proposal that will be considered by Council.

Houston’s Term Limits Review Commission voted Monday night to recommend changing the existing limits from three 2-year terms to two 4-year terms.

After a contentious and chaotic final meeting, commission members also approved a transition plan that would allow Mayor Annise Parker and seven others to serve for a total of 10 years.

That decision may create a headache for a future City Council, as it effectively could shut down the body from November through January.

According to the city charter, if a majority of council members is being replaced in one election, they are not allowed to take any votes once an election turns them into lame ducks. If the changes were enacted as proposed, that could take place as soon as 2019.

If approved by City Council, the proposed charter amendment would be decided by voters in a Nov. 2 referendum.

The lame-duck stuff, and the allowing some current members to serve longer than six years, are new to me. The two four-year terms proposal was expected, based on everything we’ve seen before. My reaction to this is approximately the same as Mayor Parker‘s.

Parker said that while she is no fan of term limits, the recommendation of the city’s Term Limits Review Commission to limit the mayor, city controller and council members to two 4-year terms rather than the current three 2-year terms is “not something I’m going to get excited about.”

She urged council members not to engage in an extended battle on term limits or “tinker” with the recommendations but to “decide if this is a good improvement on what I consider to be a bad system … and move on.”

I’ll say this much: Given that we’ve already got the Renew Houston proposition on the ballot and that we may also get a red light camera referendum, I don’t see any reason why we need to rush to get this before the voters in November. There’s no reason it couldn’t wait till a May special election next year. My inclination for now is to say to table it for later. Campos, who raises some good questions, has more.