Douglas supports term extension

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(Host) The 2007 Legislative session will be an opportunity to amend the Vermont Constitution.

Lawmakers are expected to consider a proposal to extend the length of the Governor’s term in office from 2 to 4 years.

Governor Jim Douglas says he supports the plan but the proposal does have some strong critics.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The process to amend the Vermont Constitution isn’t easy.

The plan must originate in the Senate and two thirds of the Senate must vote for the amendment to advance it to the House.

If the House supports it, the proposal must lie over until after the next election when a new Legislature must vote for it again.
If the proposal wins legislative approval for a second time, it’s then presented to voters in a statewide referendum.

Under the best of circumstances, it takes several years to complete the process.

Vermont is one of two states in the country that still maintains a 2-year term for statewide office holders. Governor Jim Douglas would like to see it changed:

(Douglas) “4 year terms give governors an opportunity to govern. It was 2 months into my current term that my opponent decided to run against me. I really think that Vermonters want their public officials to have more time than 2 months to govern without having to worry about the next election.”

(Kinzel) UVM political science professor Frank Bryan opposes the 4-year term. Bryan says Vermont essentially has a 4-year term now because incumbent governors are rarely denied a second term in office.

(Bryan) “We do have a de facto 4-year term now. We simply do not re-elect people in the last 150 years. We’ve only thrown out 2 incumbent governors in the first go around.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says the 2-year term has forced him to spend too much time on campaign activities:

(Douglas) “I frankly have spent a lot of time over the last year raising money for a re-election bid, campaigning around the state. It takes time away from focusing on issues, on developing long term strategies, on planning for our state’s future.”

(Kinzel) But Bryan says it’s good for governors to reconnect with voters every two years.

(Bryan) “It puts pressure on the governor to always pay attention to what people want and that’s good. In the back of their minds they’re saying,’ you know, I’m going to have to explain this to them in two years, so I better keep an eye on the people’s wishes.’ That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time campaigning. But it’s got to be in the forefront. And secondly, to go to the 4 year term would cut our democracy in half for the most important office we have in the state.”

(Kinzel) A number of legislative leaders have said that they’ll support a 4-year term for statewide office holders only if the extended term applies to lawmakers as well.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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