Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday called on Nevada lawmakers to abolish term limits for elected officials, which would require going against the wishes of voters who approved the restrictions in 1994 and 1996.
During a speech to the Nevada Legislature, Reid said the limitations decrease institutional knowledge among elected officials and push out leaders who still might have support from the people they serve.
“We don’t need artificial term limits,” Reid said during his speech. “After all, we already have natural ones. They’re called elections.”
Reid cited former Republican state Sen. Bill Raggio, Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman as examples of politicians at or near the end of their political careers despite support from voters.
“These restrictions don’t limit terms, they limit our ability to move forward,” Reid said.
Term limits were imposed on nearly every local and state elected officeholder in Nevada except judges after voters decided to enshrine the restrictions in the state constitution.
Legislative officeholders are limited to six two-year terms in the Assembly and three four-year terms in the Senate, meaning someone who is elected to each body could serve up to 24 years. Constitutional officeholders are limited to two terms.
Proponents say the limits prevent politicians from becoming entrenched and give new ideas a chance to take hold by forcing voters to consider new choices.
“I think at the end of the day it creates more balance in government,” said Republican political consultant Sig Rogich, a Reid supporter who pushed the term limits initiatives in the 1990s.
“There probably are instances where it is not perfect, but I like it better than having politicians who are there for life.”
Rogich initially pushed for the limits to cover federal officeholders too, a notion he still supports. He wasn’t surprised that Reid spoke out against the restrictions.
“We have disagreed on the subject for years, so I’m not surprised about it at all,” Rogich said.
Raggio, who left the Legislature on Jan. 15 midway through what would have been his final term, said he thinks Reid is right.
“If constituents want to keep somebody in the Legislature longer than 12 years they ought to have that opportunity,” Raggio said. “If they want to vote them out they can do that.”
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861.