AUSTIN (AP) — A proposed constitutional amendment that would have let voters decide whether to limit statewide officeholders to two consecutive terms ran into a buzz saw in the Texas House late Wednesday, with lawmakers voting overwhelming to defeat it despite none voicing opposition from the floor.
The proposal sailed through the Senate in March with a 27-4 vote in what some observers said was a dig at Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history. And it drew no debate in the lower chamber, with only supporters rising to sing it praises.
But the final House vote was unequivocal: 61 in favor, 88 opposed.
That means Texas won't join 36 other states that have term limits on their governors and other elected officials. Many of those opposed suggested after the vote that the electorate can already impose term limits by voting out elected officials.
Perry took over in 2000 when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush left for the White House. He is now America's longest sitting governor and, despite an unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2011, has not said whether he plans to seek a fourth full term next year.
The governor also didn't comment on the proposed constitutional amendment.
It would have placed on a November ballot a referendum letting voters decide if statewide officeholders should be limited to two consecutive terms. It wouldn't have applied to state senators and representatives — who are elected by voters in their districts and not across the state — but could potentially have affected the governor, the attorney general, judges and all other statewide officeholders.
Past term-limit legislation has been met with similar opposition. A 2011 proposal died without making it to a House vote.
This year's proposal was sponsored by Republican Sen. Kevin Eltife, who ran for Senate after local term limits prevented him from seeking re-election as mayor of Tyler. Its House sponsor, San Antonio Republican Rep. Lyle Larson, said the amendment was not meant to criticize any current elected official.
He said it would not have impacted any candidate on the 2014 ballot, but could potentially have limited Perry and others to two additional terms in future electoral cycles.
"A lot of folks looked at the governor's office and thought we already had term limits in place until the current governor," Larson said. "This is not a referendum on Rick Perry. ... It's more about straightening out something that will bring an infusion of new blood, new ideas."
Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, said polling conducted while drafting the measure suggested that 80 percent of Texans support term limits. Larson responded, "There's a lot of frustration out there with current officeholders sitting for a long time."
"If you vote against this and you run again, it's going to be very hard to explain that you aren't for protecting incumbents," Larson said.
But that was a chance his colleagues were overwhelmingly willing to take.
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