AUGUSTA, Maine — Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, wants to ask voters if Maine should increase the length of a state Senate term from two years to four.

Volk told members of the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee earlier this month that two-year terms for state senators are too short and leave senators spending more time campaigning or raising funds to campaign than actually working in the Legislature.

Volk, who is serving her first term in the state Senate, served two two-year terms in the Maine House of Representatives as well.

Her bill, LD 1012, if approved, would create a statewide vote on the issue.

“Maine is one of only 12 states that still limit their senators to serving only two years at a time,” Volk said.

She said that during Maine’s two-year lawmaking session, the Legislature is only working for nine months — 5.5 months in the first year of the session and about 3.5 months in the second year.

“This gives the Senate just nine months in session while they spend up to 13 months campaigning,” Volk said. “When the time given to campaign outweighs the time in session every election cycle, we cannot spend as much time on the issues that our constituents sent us to Augusta to take care of.”

Volk said another benefit of longer Senate terms would be a reduction in taxpayer spending for candidates who run publicly financed campaigns.

In 2014, the 80 publicly financed Senate candidates received a total of $1.1 million for their primary and general election campaigns.

“If we were to increase the length of our Senate terms, these Maine Clean Election Act payments would not be needed every two years,” Volk said. “We could spend the same amount every four years that is currently spent every two years and save the state and our voters a substantial amount of money.”

Under her proposal, Volk would split the Senate into two classes so not every Senate seat would be up for election during the same cycle and instead a staggered election would occur. Volk’s bill would still limit state Senate service to a total of eight consecutive years, as is current law.

Volk said many voters she’s spoken with think state senators already serve four-year terms.

For the measure to move forward, two-thirds of the members in both the House and the Senate would have to approve the measure before it went to voters in a statewide ballot.

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Scott Thistle

Scott Thistle is the State Politics Editor for the Lewiston Sun Journal. He has covered federal, state and local politics in Maine for nearly two decades.