AUGUSTA, Maine — The elimination of legislative term limits or extension of terms for lawmakers in Maine seem unlikely at best after committee votes Monday afternoon.
Democratic Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake, who was the poster child for the implementation of term limits in 1993, sponsored a bill, LD 182, to repeal them this year, but has backed away from supporting his own bill, according to the House chairman of the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee.
“The representative from Eagle Lake, Rep. Martin, is the one who asked to quietly kill this bill,” said Rep. Roland Martin, D-Sinclair, who is House chairman of the committee.
The committee voted 10-1 against the bill. Rep. Christopher Babbidge, D-Kennebunk, cast the sole vote in favor of the bill with an amendment he submitted that would have increased the number of consecutive terms a senator or representative could serve from four to six.
Since passage of the law in 1993, senators and representatives in the Maine Legislature are limited to four consecutive terms representing the same district. However, some individuals, including Rep. John Martin — who first won election to the Legislature in 1964 — have moved from one chamber to the other after serving four consecutive terms.
Opponents of term limits argue that they can easily be circumvented, that they rob the Legislature of elected officials with institutional memory and concentrate power in the hands of lobbyists and legislative staff, who do not have to answer directly to voters in the same way that elected officials do.
Rep. John Martin could not be reached Monday afternoon for comment on why he asked the committee to recommend against his bill.
Also killed by the committee was LD 106, a proposal by Democratic Sen. David Dutremble of Biddeford, which would have increased the length of each term served by a Maine senator from two years to four years. The committee voted unanimously against it after very little debate.
Dutremble said he proposed the bill because he thinks lawmakers need more time in office to educate themselves before they are forced out by term limits.
“It takes a while to learn the process,” said Dutremble. “Until you do, the lobbyists really have the upper hand on you.”
One bill that did garner some support during Monday’s work session on proposals to alter legislative terms was LD 1012, which ended the day Monday with a 5-5 committee vote.
The bill as written would extend the terms of senators from two years to four years and phase in the change so that their terms are staggered and about half the Senate is up for election every two years. The bill garnered the support of four Democrats and an independent.
Three members of the committee who were absent have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to cast their votes.
Because that bill calls for an amendment to the Maine Constitution, it will require support from two-thirds of the full Legislature, which will be difficult to achieve if Republicans follow their counterparts on the committee.
The bills will go to the House and Senate for more votes in the coming weeks.