- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A new group has launched a campaign to impose term limits on some of the state’s top elected and appointed officials, arguing limits will keep them from becoming professional politicians who accumulate too much power.

Rick B. Larsen, an organizer with Utah Term Limits Now, said his group wants state lawmakers to consider a bill next year that would limit Utah’s governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor and treasurer to two four-year terms in office.

“The accumulation of power that occurs when someone is in office more than eight years … it’s no longer public service. It’s a profession,” Larsen, a Salt Lake City-based marketing and fundraising consultant, said Thursday.

If lawmakers approve the measure, the constitutional amendment would then go before voters in November 2016.

It would only affect officials elected after 2017.

Larsen said there was not one specific incident that prompted the need for term limits, but he said he thinks it’s time Utah joins 36 other states that impose term limits on top officials.

Utah enacted a legislative and gubernatorial 12-year term limit law in 1994 to pre-empt a citizen initiative trying to place the matter on the ballot.

The Legislature then repealed it in 2003, three years before it would have begun ousting incumbent officials. Lawmakers said term limits took away voters’ ability to choose their officials at the ballot box.

Another group tried to run an initiative petition to once again impose term limits, but it failed to make it on the ballot.

In 2005, then-Gov. Jon Huntsman pushed for term limits for Utah’s governors, but lawmakers didn’t approve the measure.

Larsen said a state lawmaker has agreed to sponsor the proposal during next year’s legislative session, but he declined to name the lawmaker Thursday, saying it would be revealed next week.

Larsen’s group is also working on a separate initiative petition that would ask voters in 2016 to approve term limits for those appointed to serve on hundreds of state boards and commissions, including the Air Quality Board and Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

The application for that petition has been filed with the Utah lieutenant governor’s office, which oversees elections. If the office approves the petition, Utah Term Limits Now must hold seven public hearings throughout the state before it can start gathering more than 101,000 signatures.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in 2010 that he supported term limits, saying he thinks the country’s Founding Fathers always believed people would serve for limited periods of time and then live under the laws they passed.

Herbert spokesman Marty Carpenter said Thursday that the governor now feels that officials should be turned out of office when voters deciding they’re no longer effective, rather than “one-size-fits-all” term limits.

Herbert is particularly concerned about the proposal to limit terms of those serving on boards and commissions because that could make it difficult to fill those positions with enough qualified people.

Herbert, a Republican, has served since 2009. If he is re-elected to another four-year term in 2016, he will be among the state’s longest-serving governors.

Republican Mike Leavitt was elected three times but only served 11 years. He resigned in 2003 to serve in President George W. Bush’s Cabinet.

Democrat Calvin Rampton served 12 years, starting in 1965.

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