Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Capitol Business: It's Up to the Voters Either Way

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Capitol Business: It's Up to the Voters Either Way

Article excerpt

Many elected statewide secondary officeholders seem to view their posts as being life-tenured. One state legislator wants to shake up that premise.

A product of a constitutional amendment limiting legislators to a total of 12 years of legislative service, Rep. Trebor Worthen, R- Oklahoma City, now wants to apply the same principle to secondary state offices.

His House Joint Resolution 1015, submitting such a plan to a vote of the people, was reported favorably from the Rules Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

It joins other active legislation affecting statewide elected officials. Two bills call for amending the Oklahoma Constitution to make the offices of state labor commissioner and state insurance commissioner appointive rather than elected.

These proposals are not without precedent. But in Oklahoma, except for the governor, the other constitutional statewide officials have been elected without term limits since statehood.

Initially the governor was limited to one term. A change in the constitution extended it to two successive terms.

In 1970, then Gov. Dewey F. Bartlett, a Republican, became the first incumbent eligible to seek re-election. He was defeated by Democrat David Hall. Subsequently several governors have held the office twice.

Fourteen years ago term limits for legislators was a relatively unexplored theory and a hot topic across the nation. Oklahoma was one of the states whose voters fervidly embraced it. They overwhelmingly enacted a constitutional amendment limiting service in the Legislature by anyone to a maximum of 12 years, beginning with those elected in 1992.

This year we are seeing the first impact of the law. More than one-third of those elected to the House and Senate are first-time members.

Worthen is one of them. His father, Robert Worthen, a Republican from the same district, was term-limited and unable to seek re- election. His son filed for the seat and won. Name familiarity probably helped.

His proposal applies to the lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor and inspector, state treasurer, commissioner of labor and superintendent of public instruction. …

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