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United Utah Party announces proposal for term limits for elected state officials

FILE - Richard Davis, political science professor at Brigham Young University, talks to the media outside of the Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Kristin Murphy | Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – The United Utah Party announced on Facebook Live Monday morning that it is moving forward with a proposal to place term limits on elected state officials. If approved, the proposal will appear on the 2020 ballot.

The proposal would limit state legislators to a 12-year limit, limiting state senators to serving three consecutive terms and House members to serving six consecutive terms. However, after a “time-out” period lasting one term, the elected official could be reelected and return to office.

State-wide officials including the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, etc. would be limited to two four-year terms. The proposal only limits state officials, not affecting federal officeholders.

The United Utah Party chairpeople said through this proposal, they want to transform politics in Utah.

“The goal is to restore the ideal of citizen service and discourage career politicians,” said Richard Davis, United Utah Party Chair.  “What we are proposing is a reasonable term limit that still allows elected officials to serve long enough to make a difference, but not so long their career becomes more important than their constituents.”

The Party has completed its first step toward the ballot, filing an application and notarizing sponsorship Monday morning. The lieutenant governor’s office will then review the documents to ensure it does not go against the Utah constitution.

If approved, the Party will hold several public hearings to get voter feedback to determine what term limits should be. These hearings are planned to begin in late August and continue through late September.

After the hearings, the party will be required to receive 130,000 signatures from active Utah voters to show support for this initiative. Getting the proposal on the ballot will be the hardest part of the process, Davis said.

“If it gets on the ballot, we are confident it will pass,” Davis said. “Surveys show that the voters want term limits.  We will need the help of many Utahns to get this on the ballot.”

This is just the first step in the right direction, Davis said, paving the way for other “citizen initiatives” to make it on the ballots.

Through this Unite4TermLimits proposal, the Party wants to level the playing field of politics. Vice-Chair Hillary Stirling said voters hardly have a choice for who to put in office, making it challenging to unseat an incumbent.

“We believe voters should have a real choice as to whether politicians stay in office,” said Stirling. “Right now, the system makes it very difficult for challengers to beat the incumbent, leaving many races without any real competition.”

In Utah, many districts only have a one-party ruling, causing stagnation in government, according to United Utah Party. This disadvantage makes it unlikely other candidates will run against seated officials, said Stirling.

“Nationally, over 90 percent of incumbents get reelected,” Stirling said. “That’s not because these incumbents are doing such a wonderful job. It’s because the system is set up to discourage challengers.”

In the U.S., 15 states impose term limits on state legislators with 28 states imposing some term limit on their governors.

“We believe that this will impose a reasonable term limit that still allows elected officials to serve long enough to make a difference. But at the same time, not stay so long they become entrenched career politicians.”

You can see the full announcement from the United Utah Party below.