Supporters of 4 year Gubernatorial term face uphill battle

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Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to give the governor a four year term say they face an uphill battle in the upcoming session.

One problem is that a number of lawmakers will support the longer term in office only if legislators are also given 4 year terms.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) For more than 35 years, there’s been an effort at the Statehouse to give the governor a four year term in office but the amendment has never made it through the entire constitutional process.

Vermont is currently one of just two states in the country to maintain a two year term – the other is New Hampshire.

One of the reasons why is because it’s not easy to amend the Vermont Constitution.

First, the proposal must pass the Senate with the support of at least 20 senators – then it goes over to the House.

If the House backs the plan, the amendment is reintroduced in the next session and must be approved by majorities in the Senate and House all over again.

If the proposal survives this far, it’s presented to voters in a statewide referendum.

The amendment’s biggest success came in the early 1970s when it was approved by the Legislature but was ultimately rejected by voters in November of 1974.

Washington senator Bill Doyle is a long time supporter of the four year term.  He says the debate this session has become more complicated because some lawmakers say they’ll support the amendment only if legislators are also given a 4 year term.

Doyle opposes this plan and he’s concerned that it will now be very difficult to find 20 senators who will back his gubernatorial amendment:

(Doyle) "I mean I understand that and that’s why I say the odds are long for any constitutional amendment and I think that complicates the issue.

(Kinzel) UVM political science professor Frank Bryan opposes a four year term for governor because he feels it makes the chief executive less accountable to voters.  He points out that virtually all governors are given a second term in office:

(Bryan) "So that keeping this 2 year term says look you’re going to get re-elected you don’t have to go out and campaign a lot and if the governor is campaigning in the first two years I would just say to them don’t bother you see you don’t have to do that Vermonters are going to do the right thing and re-elect you unless you do something really egregious."

(Kinzel) Senator Doyle says he’d like to see the Senate vote on several different amendments this session. For instance, it could consider one that deals with just the governor’s term and another that address the length of legislative terms.

But adopting this approach will take the backing of 20 senators and Doyle says he’s not sure he has votes to win this fight.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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