AUSTIN (AP) — Texas senators delivered a subtle rebuke to three-term Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, approving a bill that would limit future statewide office holders to two consecutive terms.
While Perry was not mentioned by name, lawmakers made oblique references to the need for new leadership.
Republican Sen. Kevin Eltife, who joined the Senate after local term limits prevented him for running for re-election as mayor of Tyler, said the proposal would produce "new ideas and fresh perspectives in government."
The Senate advanced the proposed constitutional amendment to the House with a vote of 27-4. If approved by voters, the amendment would apply to governors, lieutenant governors, attorneys general and state agency commissioners. It would not apply to judges or the legislators themselves.
Outfitted with a grandfather clause, the proposal would exempt Perry, who has been elected to three consecutive terms since taking office in 2000. In that time, he has remade the state government's executive leadership through his political appointments. After an unsuccessful presidential campaign last year, he has said he may run for a fourth term in 2014.
Asked about the proposal on Tuesday, Perry's spokeswoman said, "The governor has always said Texas voters are the best determiners of term limits."
Thirty-six states currently limit gubernatorial terms, according to the Council of State Governments.
On the floor, Republican Sen. Craig Estes of Wichita Falls tried without success to derail the measure with a parliamentary maneuver. He described terms limits as an infringement on powers properly relegated to the ballot box.
"This is not about one particular personality," Estes said. "Whoever that may be."
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, speaking with reporters after overseeing a vigorous debate, professed no knowledge of the intended target of any message sent by the bill.
"You'll have to ask the members who they had in mind," he said.
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