Term-limit law meets opposition:
Former representatives say the rule hurts the public.
Statesman Journal
April 19, 2001

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and four former colleagues in the Oregon Legislature said Wednesday what incumbents may find difficult to do: speak out against Oregon's term limits law.

"It has turned our Legislature into a big bus station," said the Portland Democrat, himself a state representative from 1973 to 1979. "Most people are on their way someplace else, but few want to stay to make a difference.

"It does not shortchange just the individual legislators, making it hard for them to get the experience they need to serve. It shortchanges the public, denying them the opportunity to keep men and women they like in office."

Blumenauer and the others released a letter at a Capitol news conference signed by 105 former legislators who support changing or doing away with the limits voters approved in 1992.

The House voted earlier this week to send voters a measure that retains the 12-year lifetime limit, but drops internal limits of six years in the House and eight in the Senate. Last week it passed another bill to speed up a challenge to the law in state courts.

The Senate will vote soon on two proposals, one similar to the House"s change and the other asking voters to repeal the law.

A supporter of the limits, Ted Piccolo of Portland, said legislators should have formed their own citizen committee to qualify a measure for the ballot.

"They just want to use their vaunted positions to keep their hold on power," Piccolo said.

But former Rep. Tony Van Vliet, a Republican from Corvallis, said only 12 senators and 17 representatives remained by 1981, just six years after he entered the House.

"This natural attrition has been common in Oregon," said Van Vliet, who left the House in 1995. "We believe in a citizen Legislature that looks at service as a public responsibility, rather than a professional career."

Other supporters were former Speaker Phil Lang, a Portland Democrat who served 18 years until 1979; former House Minority Leader Roger Martin, a Lake Oswego Republican who served 12 years until 1979, and former Rep. Doug Heider, a Republican who represented Marion County from 1959 to 1963.

Martin is a lobbyist and Heider, now retired, was a lobbyist for 30 years.

"Do you want lobbyists educating legislators?" Martin said. "That"s what we have today."