Discussion begins on four-year terms

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(Host) The Senate Government Operations Committee plans to hold public hearings throughout the state next month to gauge public support for a four-year term for governor. The proposal might be linked to a plan to implement a four-year term for lawmakers as well.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Will Vermont remain as one of just two states in the country that has a two-year term for governor ? That’s a key question facing lawmakers this session. It will take the adoption of a constitutional amendment to change the current system and the Legislature has an opportunity this session to take the first step in the amendment process.

In order to amend the Vermont Constitution, two separately elected Legislatures must approve the plan and then the proposal is placed before voters in a statewide referendum.

Senate Government Operations Chairman Bill Doyle has been a long time supporter of a four-year term for governor. Doyle is planning to hold public hearings throughout the state this winter to take public testimony on this issue.

Some lawmakers say they’ll only support a four-year term for governor if the amendment includes a four-year term for members of the Legislature. Doyle says this is an issue that needs to be resolved:

(Doyle) “I’d hesitate to predict what would come out of our committee and particularly when we haven’t even had any public hearings on the issues. So we’d like to have a fair and full debate – hear witnesses on both sides of the issue, hear people from all over the state, listen to their views and then come to a final determination.”

(Kinzel) Chittenden County Senator Jim Condos, who serves as vice chairman of the committee, is supporting a constitutional amendment that includes a four-year term for the governor and all lawmakers:

(Condos) “I think we have to look at the terms of the Legislature though. Because if you put the governor in a four-year term, it puts him at a significant advantage over the Legislative branch, because we would all be at two-year terms at that point. And the governor would have free access to campaign on behalf of certain candidates because he doesn’t have to worry about his own campaign.”

(Kinzel) All proposed constitutional amendments must originate in the Senate and they cannot be changed in any way once they leave the Senate. In order to initially advance to the House, the amendment must be supported by at least 20 senators.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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