Lafayette News, October 5, 1998

‘Yes’ on Amendment 18 is ‘yes’ on term limits


When asked, the majority of Congressmen and Senators 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 after election – on their way to a very long career in Washington.

Year after year, the careerist United States 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 members 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 ballot an initiative (Amendment 18) that serves as an 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 declaration 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 that candidate’s personal position and actual intentions on term limits. When the 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. Unfortunately this public distrust has proven to be extremely well placed. Here in Colorado, Congressman 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 7 to 1.

Furthermore, many Americans, from all political spectrums, feel they are not represented in Congress. They are tired of politicians who say one thing to the voters and do something entirely different once in Washington. They are tired of having representatives who are more receptive to special interests bearing donations, than they are to the concerns of their constituents.

Despite the overwhelming support of term limits in Colorado, there are only two elected officials who have already agreed to self-limit Senator Wayne Allard and Congressman 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 look out for the interests of Colorado. But this is an elitist attitude that many career politicians hold, that assumes that Colorado voters don’t know what they are voting for. Three times this decade, Colorado voters have passed term limits initiatives. Coloradans have made it abundantly clear, they want citizen legislators not career politicians.

Here in Colorado, our U.S. Senators and Representatives are the only officeholders 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. By informing voters of the term limits position of candidates for Congress, voters are able to make a more informed decision on what type of candidate they want in Congress – a citizen legislator who will limit their tenure in Congress or a career politician. Sending term-limit supporters to Congress will bring better, more responsive, representation to Colorado citizens. And ultimately, Amendment 18 will bring Coloradans what nearly 70 percent of Colorado voters have repeatedly said they desire – Congressional term limits.

(Dennis Polhill is the Co-chairman of the Term Limits Coalition.)