- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin state lawmakers and the governor would be term limited under a long-shot proposal being circulated by three Republicans in the Legislature.

The constitutional amendment being floated this week comes 15 years after the last state imposed restrictions on how long someone can remain in office and seven years after the idea was last floated in Wisconsin.

If the proposal wins approval, the changes wouldn’t take effect until 2020, and currently serving lawmakers and governor would not be covered. The restrictions would limit newly elected Senate and Assembly members to no more than 12 years in office and the governor and lieutenant governor to eight years.

But the plan has a long way to go. Both the state Senate and Assembly would have to approve it twice over the next three years, after which voters would be asked on a statewide ballot whether they wanted to add the term limits to the Wisconsin Constitution.

Rep. Bob Gannon, a Republican from Slinger in his first term, is behind the idea along with Rep. Romaine Quinn, of Chetek, and Sen. Duey Stroebel, who is in his first year in the Senate after serving four years in the Assembly.

Gannon said term limits would give lawmakers a sense of urgency and infuse the Legislature with fresh ideas. He laughed Tuesday when asked if he thought leaders would schedule the proposal for a public hearing and possible vote.

“There is some push back from legislators, which does not surprise me,” Gannon said. “This is truly a case where the citizens want it done but the Legislature’s hasn’t gotten it done.”

Gannon said he tried to make the idea as palatable to sitting legislators as possible by allowing them to remain with no limits, but the response from Republican leaders so far has been underwhelming: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, in his 11th year in office, had no comment, and a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, in office since 1995, said he had not reviewed the proposal.

Only 18 of the Legislature’s 132 lawmakers have been in office more than 12 years - the limit under the proposed legislation - and the average current tenure is just shy of 10 years in the Senate and five years in the Assembly.

The nationwide push to impose term limits began in 1990, hitting its peak in the middle of that decade. No state has approved term limits since Nebraska in 2000. There are 15 states with term limits on state legislators, and all but Louisiana did so through a citizen-led initiative - an avenue that isn’t available in Wisconsin, meaning lawmakers here would have to vote on limiting their own time in office.

Wisconsin is one of 14 states that have no term limits on the governor.

During his failed 2006 run for governor, Walker proposed 12-year term limits for state legislators, as well as for the governor, attorney general, state treasurer and secretary of state. And in his ill-fated run for president this year, Walker called for 12-year term limits for members of Congress and the federal judiciary.

Walker has said he has “self-imposed” term limits. He has not served in any one elected position for more than 10 years.

“I think in any job, not just in government, about a decade is about as much as you can do in exactly the same position before you start to become complacent,” Walker said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire in August.

Walker served nearly nine years as a member of the state Assembly and as Milwaukee County executive. He’s in his fifth year as governor and has not said whether he will seek a third term in 2018.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

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