• U.S.

A Resounding Yes for Term Limitations

2 minute read

More than 230 state issues ranging from term limits to mandatory health insurance and curbs on gay rights were on Tuesday’s ballots. But none was as incendiary as the fire storm of demands for restrictions on the number of terms elected officials can serve. Not since citizen initiatives first | appeared on state ballots in 1898 has an issue so galvanized Americans. Voters in 14 states, from Oregon to Florida, which represent 35% of the American population, overwhelmingly approved proposals to limit Senators to two terms and members of Congress to anywhere from three to six terms. A 15th state, Rhode Island, joined 12 of the others in limiting the time that state officials can serve. Said John Jazwa, a member of Ohioans for Term Limits, the group that helped get the issue onto Ohio’s ballots: “They are tired of their politicians taking advantage of the system and them being the pawns and paying the bills.” Popular as they were, most of the restrictions may have no legal effect. Many scholars doubt that states have the power to limit the terms of Senators and members of Congress. But the clear consensus — as much as 3 to 1 in several states — has thrust the issue to the top of the national agenda, lending momentum to calls for a constitutional amendment on the issue.

California defeated a move to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. Golden State voters also refused to require employers to provide health-care insurance for workers. The measure was backed by doctors but strongly opposed by insurers, who successfully portrayed it as ruinously expensive for business. That vote illustrates the difficulty that President-elect Clinton will face in winning passage of universal health care.

Among other state measures of national significance were antigay initiatives in Colorado and Oregon. Colorado’s Amendment 2, which forbids civil rights protections for homosexuals, passed, 55% to 45%. But Oregon’s Measure 9, which sought to define homosexuality as “wrong, unnatural and perverse,” went down to defeat, 44% to 56%. In Maryland voters approved a proposition guaranteeing the right to abortion. Iowa voters turned down an equal-rights amendment after a bitter fight that drew such national figures as Phyllis Schlafly and Pat Robertson to the state to lobby against it.

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