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New effort launched to protect term limits

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Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council may have skirted the city’s term limits law through legislating in a third term, but running for a fourth term may not be as easy.

The Assembly last week passed a measure amending the State Election Law to require a public referendum before a change in a local term limits law becomes effective.

The 135−11 vote will mandate voter approval to change term limits in any municipality, county, village or town in the state where term limits are in effect.

The measure call for a referendum on the issue no later than the first Tuesday in March before a general election.

The law would become effective January 1, 2010, if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. David Paterson.

“This is a good government bill that will make sure the undemocratic power grab witnessed in New York City last fall never occurs anywhere in New York State again,” said Brooklyn Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries, who sponsored the bill.

The measure comes after Mayor Bloomberg last year successfully pushed the City Council to extend term limits to three terms from two.

In 1993 and 1996, city residents voted by referendum to limit the tenure of municipal officeholders to two terms, or a total of eight years.

The battle to extend term limits was upheld in state and federal courts, who ruled the city had a right to overturn the referendum.

Bloomberg said as part of the legislation he will put together a new charter commission to study election laws, among other items, after the upcoming November election.

Ironically, Bloomberg and many City Council members owe in large part their being elected due to their predecessors being term limited out.

The measure now moves before the Senate, where Brooklyn Sen. Kevin Parker has sponsored a similar bill, which passed the Election Law Committee on March 10.

However, with the Senate deadlocked over which party is in control, it remains unclear at press time if it will come to the floor for a vote.

“The State Assembly has boldly stepped forward to protect the integrity of the democratic process,” said Jeffries. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do the same by passing the Term Limits Referendum Bill.”

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