House panel rejects bill proposing term limits for statewide elected officials

A state House panel Wednesday morning defeated legislation that would have set term limits for statewide elected officials.

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 6-2 to involuntarily defer the proposed constitutional amendment.

The measure would have limited the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer and commissioners of insurance and agriculture to three, four-year terms.

The governor is already subject to a two-term limit.

State Rep. Simon Champagne, R-Jeanerette, said Louisiana residents overwhelmingly favor term limits. She said that some 70 percent of voters in parishes across the state chose to limit school board members terms in last year’s election. “All people across the state deserve an opportunity to vote on this issue,” Champagne said.

Opposition came from Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

“The attorney general is the state’s legal officer. We are not a policy-making office like the legislature,” which is subject to term limits, Caldwell said. “We render legal services for the Legislature, statewide elected officials ... You want the most experienced people tending to your legal business. How would you like to be restricted on who you can hire as your lawyer?”

Caldwell said statewide elected officials are subject to term limits “every single election ... We should not be encouraging political opportunism.”

Champagne said the Legislature has experienced term limits “and has done a wonderful job to transition us.”

State Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, who served locally for a long time before being elected the Legislature, said he could not be a hypocrite and vote for term limits. “I see what’s happening here in the Legislature with term limits. I would tell you a lot of people are counting the days when we are gone. They only have to deal with short-termers,” Berthelot said.

“Unfortunately,” Champagne said, “all elected officials don’t know when its time for us to go.”

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne submitted a card in support of the measure.