A local law that would impose term limits on future Erie County lawmakers could be voted on by the Legislature as early as next week.
Legislator Kevin Hardwick, R-City of Tonawanda, a principal sponsor of the legislation, on Tuesday said it is an idea that has been percolating among members of the Republican-aligned majority for a while. However, it is now being looked at with new urgency after Republican State Sen. George Maziarz of Newfane announced the end of his campaign for a fifth term in the state Legislature in the midst of a federal probe of his campaign expenses.
“I think what prompted it was all the talk the last few days about career politicians and term limits as a result of George Maziarz, and some other stuff that’s been going on in Albany,” Hardwick said.
“Obviously, this would not affect state senators and state assemblymen, but it would affect legislators at this level, a level we can control,” he added.
The resolution calls for future county legislators to be limited to five two-year terms or a maximum of 10 consecutive years in office, though the resolution’s sponsors toyed with the idea of imposing a six-term limit.
“I think it would be providing for new blood,” Hardwick said. “Some turnover is good. The thing is, you don’t want a term limit of only one term or two terms, because you want some experience. It does take time to learn how to get things done.
“And this does not preclude someone serving five terms and then taking a couple of years off and then coming back and getting re-elected. It’s 10 consecutive years,” he added.
In addition, those appointed to fill a vacancy in the Legislature would not have that partial term held against them when seeking re-election, Hardwick said.
The legislation is expected to be up for a vote at the Legislature’s July 24 session. Legislators Ted B. Morton of Depew and Edward A. Rath III of Amherst, both Republicans, are the other sponsors of the legislation.
If approved, the county attorney’s office would be required to draft the local law, which would then be subject to a public hearing prior to being voted on by the County Legislature. If adopted by a majority of the Legislature, the proposition would be placed on the general election ballot.
Hardwick on Tuesday said he did not anticipate there would be enough time in the adoption process for the proposition to appear on the ballot for the Nov. 4 general election.
“What I’m looking at is getting this in shape so that it could go on the ballot not this November, but November of 2015. Regardless, it would be before the start of a new term, so that the people elected in 2015 would be bound by it,” Hardwick said.
The law would not be retroactive and would kick in only after the next legislative body is seated in 2016, meaning current lawmakers would not be subject to the 10-year term limit until then.
Minority Leader Betty Jean Grant, a Buffalo Democrat, is the third-longest-tenured member of the 11-member Legislature behind Majority Leader John J. Mills of Orchard Park and Thomas A. Loughran of Amherst. Grant said she intends to vote against the legislation because she feels the voters in each legislative district ought to be the final arbiters of how long their representatives in the Legislature serve.
“Why deny the people good representation just because he has served a certain number of years?” Grant said.