Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

Lincoln Journal Star. January 19, 2023.

Editorial: Third term for legislators is good option

Next year, Nebraska voters are certain to be asked to allow state senators to serve three consecutive terms in Legislature

That is because 40 of the 49 senators have signed on to LR22CA, a constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Robert Dover of Norfolk that would increase the state’s legislative term limit from two four-year terms to three.

A legislative newcomer who was appointed to fill the unexpired District 20 term after Sen. Mike Flood was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last summer, Dover said he brought the amendment after discussions with legislative staff, lobbyists and current and former senators.

“To a person, they said (term limits) took away from the consistency at the Capitol and that it wasn’t a good thing,” Dover told the Journal Star. “That’s why I brought it forward – to fix something that needs to be fixed.”

That problem – the lack of continuity in addressing issues which can take years to create a passable solution, a loss of legislative knowledge and leadership and the resultant increase in the influence of the governor and executive branch – has been apparent since the first year in which term limits, approved by voters in 2000, took effect.

In 2006, 20 state senators were forced out because of term limits. An additional 16 followed in 2008, That was more than 70% of the Legislature gone in two years.

That turnover has inevitably continued following the seven elections since – with 13 senators forced out last year.

A handful of senators, including most notably former Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers and this year, Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, have sat out four years, and were again elected to the seat they previously held. But those cases have been few and far between.

Given the 40 of 49 signing on to the bill, it’s surprising that a similar constitutional amendment proposed by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne two years ago failed to advance. Perhaps, there has been enough disruptive turnover in the Legislature that senators have, at last, recognized there is something they can do to mitigate the damage of the two-term limit.

The Journal Star editorial board has long opposed term limits for any office, believing that voters have the opportunity to “limit” the term of any incumbent at the ballot box every four years. There, however, appears to be no effort underway to eliminate entirely them for the Legislature, which also would require a constitutional amendment.

In that case, we strongly support LR22CA, which appears destined to be overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature, with no chance for a successful filibuster, and will support extending the limit to three terms when it is on the 2024 general election ballot.