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Colorado Term Limits Act, Amendment 17 (1994)

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The Colorado Term Limits Amendment, also known as Amendment 17, was on the November 8, 1994 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved .

This measure placed term limits on elected officials, from the local to federal level. Specifically, it limited members of the United States House of Representatives to 3 consecutive terms, local elected officials to 2 consecutive terms unless changed by local voters, and two consecutive terms for the State Board of Education and the University of Colorado Board of Regents. The proposal did not change term limits for United State Senators, state elected officials, and the Colorado Legislature.[1][2]

Aftermath

In the 1995 ruling U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that state level qualifications on members of congress stricter than that of the United States Constitution were unconstitutional.

Election results

Colorado Amendment 17 (1994)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 554,238 51.05%
No531,52148.95%

Election results via: Colorado Legislative Council

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1][3]

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution to limit the number of consecutive terms that may be served by a non-judicial elected official of any political subdivision of the state, by a member of the State Board of Education, and by an elected member of the governing board of a state institution of higher education and to allow voters to lengthen, shorten, or eliminate such limitations of terms of office; and to reduce the number of consecutive terms that may be served by the United States Representatives elected from Colorado?[4]

Constitutional changes

Section 11 of Article XVIII of the Colorado Constitution states as follows:

Text of Section 11:

Elected Government Officials Limitation on Terms.

(1) In order to broaden the opportunities for public service and to assure that elected officials of governments are responsive to the citizens of those governments, no nonjudicial elected official of any county, city and county, city, town, school district, service authority, or any other political subdivision of the State of Colorado, no member of the state board of education, and no elected member of the governing board of a state institution of higher education shall serve more than two consecutive terms in office, except that with respect to terms of office which are two years or shorter in duration, no such elected official shall serve more than three consecutive terms in office. This limitation on the number of terms shall apply to terms of office beginning on or after January 1, 1995. For purposes of this Section 11, terms are considered consecutive unless they are at least four years apart.

(2) The voters of any such political subdivision may lengthen, shorten or eliminate the limitations on terms of office imposed by this Section 11. The voters of the state may lengthen, shorten, or eliminate the limitations on terms of office for the state board of education or the governing board of a state institution of higher education imposed by this Section 11.

(3) The provisions of this Section 11 shall apply to every home rule county, home rule city and county, home rule city and home rule town, notwithstanding any provision of Article XX, or Sections 16 and 17 of Article XIV, of the Colorado Constitution.

Support

Some arguments in support of term limits include:[2]

  • Colorado voters already approved some term limits, this measure finishes it off.
  • Term limits allow for new politicians with fresh ideas.
  • Term limits provide more competitive elections.
  • Term limits on Congressional members helps promote the idea of representation as a public service and not a career.

Opposition

Some arguments in opposition of term limits include:[2]

  • Term limits on Colorado delegates in Congress would weaken Colorado's political power in comparison to states that do not have term limits.
  • The measure imposes uniform term limits on local government across the state, rather than allow for citizens to enact them only when desired. Removing or modifying the unified terms would be costly for localities.
  • The issue of term limits was not generated by boards or locally elected officials. Rather, these position suffer a problem of finding interested citizens to fill them in the first place.
  • The true benefits of term limits are not yet known (as of 1994).
  • Term limits make our system less democratic by not letting people vote for who they truly want.
  • There will be a shift in power to lobbyists and non-elected officers because of loss of institutional memory in elected positions.

Path to the ballot

  • In 1990, an initiative in Colorado placed terms limits on some statewide elected officials, including United State Senators and Representatives.[2]
  • In 1994, Colorado was one of five states (also including Idaho, Nevada, Nebraska, and Utah) that sought to place term limits on local officials.[2]

See also

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