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Term limits have their own limits

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By Greg Romberg

The bloom of term limits in Colorado seems to be off the rose.

Colorado led a national trend when its voters approved term limits on the state legislature and governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer in 1990 and extended the limits to local government officials, the State Board of Education and the CU Board of Regents in 1994. Proponents believed term limits would open up elected offices to more people and lessen the institutional influences of bureaucrats and special interests as new people less beholden to those interests came into office.

While the benefits of term limits can, and have been, debated, there is no doubt that they have led to fundamental differences as turnover in legislative leadership has happened much more frequently than was the case before they were enacted. Opponents have argued that the increased turnover has actually increased the influence of lobbyists and long-term government employees.

A nuance of Colorado’s term limits on local governments is that local voters can modify or eliminate the restrictions. A number of cities and counties have done just that, and Jefferson County voters are in the process of making such decisions right now. There are two ballot questions before us on the mail ballots we have received that must be returned to the county clerk by Nov. 3.

Question 1A would allow the district attorney to serve three terms, or 12 years, instead of the current limitation of two terms. Question 2A would make a similar extensions for the sheriff, assessor, clerk and recorder, treasurer, coroner and surveyor. There is no ballot proposal to extend term limits for the county commissioners.

I’m going to vote yes on both questions. While there is clearly benefit to taxpayers to bring new people and new energy to these elected offices, there are also benefits of experience and expertise. When it is all said and done, I have enough confidence in voters to trust them to remove officials who are challenged by better candidates or to know when an elected official has gotten stale enough to need to be replaced.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.