By Ann Luther
LD1012 (Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Increase the Lenth of Terms of Senators)
Polly Ward and I attended the SLG public hearing on LD1012. This bill would proposes to amend the Maine Constitution to extend terms for State Senate from two years to four years.
The lead sponsor, Senator Volk, presented testimony that 30 other states have four-year terms for state senators. She cited less-frequent leadership turnover, savings in Maine Clean Election Act (MCEA) funds, and less campaigning as benefits of the change. She is OK with leaving terms in the House at two years since the represent smaller districts.
She suggested an amendment that would alternate and stagger the terms in a 2:4:4 or 4:4:2 pattern so that the same districts did not always come up for election in presidential election years or in mid-term elections, which may give an advantage to one party or another, respectively.
Rep. Evangelos asked whether the MCEA provided candidates with enough funds. Sen. Volk answered that there was $70,000 total spending on her candidacy and over $300,000 spent on her opponent, so she though there was plenty of money. Rep. Evangelos noted that this included independent expenditures and was not all MCEA money.
Rep. Babbidge asked about less-than-effective legislators getting entrenched for a too-long term, where now they can be quickly dispatched. Sen. Volk responded that people can always resign early if they don’t like or can’t do the work, and they can be forced to resign under extreme circumstances.
No cosponsors spoke, despite the fact that the bill has a long list of cosponsors. There was no testimony For or Against.
Julie Flynn testified NFNA on behalf of the Secretary of State’s office. She pointed out that the bill as drafted, with staggered terms — so they’re not all elected at the same time — poses a problem for reapportionment and could leave some towns with two senators and others with none.
Polly Ward presented our testimony NFNA very effectively, and some of the House members of the committee were seen nodding when it was noted that this bill would strengthen the power and effectiveness of the Senate vis a vis the House.
We did not sense much momentum in the room.