Aurora Sentinel, October 21, 1998

Term limit liars

Editor: When asked, the majority of congressman in Washington will profess their strong support of term limits. In fact, ironically, many of these same politicians campaign on their support of term limits and a citizen legislature election after election — on their way to a very long career.

Year after year, the careerist U. S. Congress has shown that it will not impose term limits on its members. Of course, members promise their constituents they will vote for term limits, but often self-interest — not to mention the nice office and six-figure salary are just too much to walk away from. So instead, every year Congress institutes a series of procedural maneuvers to guarantee member the opportunity to get on the record supporting some type of term limits, while all along ensuring that term limits will never pass Congress.

In response to this refusal of Congress to pass a term limits law, the Colorado Term Limits Coalition has placed on the state ballot an initiative, Amendment 18, that serves as a important step in taking Congress back from career politicians.

This initiative, known as the Voluntary Congressional Term Limits Declaration Act, will allow candidates for Congress to sign a document limiting their own term in office. When the law is passed, every candidate for Congress will be offered a declaration stating they will serve no more than three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate. This will be strictly voluntary. If a candidate does not wish to sign, there will be no requirement to do so. This information, at the candidate’s request, will then be placed on the ballot to inform voters of the candidate’s personal position and actual intentions on term limits. If Amendment 18 passes, voters will be able to distinguish between those candidates who intend to limit their own terms and serve as citizen legislators and those who do not.

Amendment 18 is needed because many voters believe candidates cannot be trusted to honor their promises on term limits once they go to Washington. Here in Colorado, U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, who initially promised voters that he would serve only four terms, has now stated publicly that he probably will break the term-limit promise to his constituents. This despite polls that consistently show voters prefer candidates who agree to self-limit their tenure in Washington by an overwhelming margin of seven to one.

Despite the overwhelming support of term limits in Colorado, there are only two elected officials who have already agreed to self-limit – Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Bob Schaffer. But the voters have already exhibited their support of term limits. In the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, a candidate who signed a pledge to limit his tenure to three terms in Congress upset the favorite who had publicly stated he would not agree to limit his tenure if elected.

Notwithstanding this support of term limits, some naysayers still exist. Opponents of term limits will claim that we need experience and longevity to lookout for the interests of Colorado. But this is an elitist attitude that many career politicians hold, that assumes that Colorado voters don’t know who they are voting for. Three times this decade, Colorado voters have passed term-limit initiatives. Coloradans have made it abundantly clear they want citizen legislators — not career politicians.

In Colorado, U.S. senators and representatives are the only office holders not subject to term limits. Every attempt by the voters of Colorado to do what Congress won’t do to itself — pass Congressional term limits — has been thwarted by unelected judges.

Amendment 18 is an important step towards getting rid of career politicians and will bring what nearly 70 percent of Colorado voters have repeatedly said they desire — Congressional term limits.

Dennis Polhill Co-chaiman of the Colorado Term limits Coalition