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Home / Government / Neumann proposes term limits for lawmakers, others (4:47 p.m. 1/4/10)

Neumann proposes term limits for lawmakers, others (4:47 p.m. 1/4/10)

Associated Press Writer

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Saying he would hold himself to just two terms in office if elected governor, Republican Mark Neumann on Monday came out in support of limiting all state lawmakers and constitutional officers to no more than 12 years in office.

Neumann, a former two-term U.S. congressman, also called for allowing citizens to circulate petitions to get proposed law and constitutional changes on the ballot for voter approval.

None of the changes will be easily made, and even if elected governor Neumann would have no power to enact them.

The proposals would require amending the Wisconsin Constitution, an arduous three-vote process that takes years. Both houses of the Legislature must approve any proposed constitutional amendments twice, over at least two years, before they are then put to voters to decide whether to enact them.

And when it comes to term limits, politicians are loathe to vote themselves out of office.

The last time it came up in Wisconsin, in 2007, the idea gathered only four co-sponsors, never got a public hearing, and quietly died.

“The chances of the Wisconsin Legislature imposing term limits on itself are about the same as the Legislature turning the state Capitol into a bed-and-breakfast,” said conservative interest group the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute in a report last year.

Even so, Neumann said in a release announcing his support for the proposals that they should be easy to enact because they would help to rebuild trust between government and the people.

Even Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle tacitly supported term limits when he announced in August that he wouldn’t seek a third term, saying limiting governors to two terms is the norm across the country and stepping aside after that period allows for people with new ideas to come forward.

Neumann’s term limit proposal would apply to the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state, state superintendent of public instruction and members of both the state Senate and Assembly. Constitutional officers and Senate members would be limited to three, four-year terms. Assembly members could serve six, two-year terms only.

Fifteen states have term limits for state lawmakers and 36 have them for the governor.

Neumann, along with Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, are the two highest profile Republican candidates in the race. The primary is Sept. 7 and the general election is Nov. 2.

Walker’s spokeswoman Jill Bader dismissed Neumann’s proposals as gimmicks that were a distraction from the more important issue of creating jobs.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is the biggest name Democrat running. His spokesman Phil Walzak had no immediate comment.

Neumann spent four years representing southeast Wisconsin in Congress between 1995 and 1999 but has been out of politics since narrowly losing against U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold in 1998. He currently works as a real estate developer and home builder in the Milwaukee area.

Neumann on Monday also proposed:

— Requiring the Legislature to make public any major spending proposal at least five days before a vote to pass it.

— Prohibiting donations to all state lawmakers and constitutional officers from an employee of a business at any time while that business’s bid for a contract is being considered by any state government agency.

— Prohibiting any government employees appointed by the governor from contributing to his campaign or organizing fundraising efforts.

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