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The Daily Tar Heel

Bill Proposes Extended Terms for N.C. Assembly

The bill, proposed by Sen. David Weinstein, D-Bladen, and Sen. David Hoyle, D-Cleveland, would extend state legislators' terms from two to four years and limit long legislative sessions to 135 days and short sessions to 60 days.

The state legislature meets in long sessions during odd-numbered years and short sessions during even-numbered years. Recent sessions have stretched weeks beyond the scheduled time.

The bill, which would require a constitutional amendment, would allow for a 10-day extension of either session and also for any emergency sessions called.

The N.C. constitution requires amendments to pass in both the House and Senate with approval from three-fifths of the members and then pass by a simple majority in a public referendum.

But the bill does have support from members on both sides of the aisle.

Weinstein said the bill would benefit lawmakers just beginning to wet their feet in the legislative pool. "It takes two years just to learn the system," he said.

Weinstein also said four-year terms are necessary because legislators are forced to constantly campaign. "We just got back in session and in 10 months, we have to file for re-election," he said. "It is a continuous fund-raising affair."

Weinstein said he is confident the bill will be received positively, especially concerning term extensions. "(People) are tired of every two years being bombarded with campaign literature. "

He cited rising campaign costs as evidence that extending the length of terms will enable more people to run for office.

Weinstein said limits on the length of legislative sessions were included in the bill as another way to increase access to legislative positions.

Without such a limit, Weinstein said, potential legislators have no idea how long they will be in session in Raleigh -- a situation he said discourages people from running for office.

But Hoyle said the idea of limited sessions is not a new one. "Thirty-eight other states restrict the number of dates the General Assembly can meet."

And Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, said he thinks the issue is more philosophical than partisan.

"Generally I support (the bill)," he said. "(Four-year terms) would help us focus more on what we have to do."

UNC political science Professor George Rabinowitz said he thinks the bill has both good and bad points.

"I think by making longer terms, it gives the legislature more time to act," he said.

But Rabinowitz said the bill will not do much to fix the monetary problems associated with campaigning.

"If it's a four-year term, the stakes get higher and probably the campaign costs will get higher too."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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