A two term governor?

Like a bad penny, the idea of extending the term limit on Virginia’s governor from one to two terms has reappeared. Usually it’s Republicans who’ve fronted the concept, with Del. Bob Purkey often leading the way with legislation that makes a few pre-session headlines, but then disappears.

Now state Democrats are going to see if they can make headway with the two-term limit by incorporating the idea into a larger government reform package.

Regrettably, the arguments for extending the term limit haven’t gotten any better over the years, as Del. Bob Brink demonstrates. The single term limit, he contends:

…makes the governor “a lame duck the minute he takes his hand off the bible,” said Del. Bob Brink (D-Arlington). That also leads governors to “kick the can down the road” on tough problems that require long-term planning, such as transportation, Brink said.

The only governor who comes close to Brink’s image is Tim Kaine, who continually tried to raise taxes on this, that and the other and was rebuffed each time — even by his own party. His recent predecessors managed to do quite well during their single terms — George Allen eliminated parole, Jim Gilmore won his car tax relief, and Mark Warner managed to get his tax increase. Mr. Kaine’s successor, Bob McDonnell, has whittled away at the state’s budget and will very likely help steer a property rights amendment through the General Assembly. He managed to implement a series of VDOT audits that found more than a billion dollars under the office cushions, is looking to shore-up transportation funding and somehow managed to become a contender for the national GOP ticket. All in just two years.

And yes, Gov. McDonnell, like his predecessors, has a thing for consecutive terms, too.

But they all seek to address a problem that doesn’t exist. Virginia governors have, largely, done pretty well for themselves and the state under the one-and-done rule. The single term gives them focus. It also gives them the freedom to tackle issues that would otherwise be kicked down the road with all the other cans.

Or think of it this way: when you point your finger, you have three fingers pointing back at you (go ahead, try it). Mr. Brink’s pointing at the one-term limit as the source of Richmond’s myopia is a dodge. The real can-kicking culprits are legislators. And they have no limits on their terms at all.

  • Steve Vaughan

    Virginia is frequently cited as the best governed state in the U.S. That wouldn’t seem to indicate that any major changes are necessary.

  • I think voters deserve the chance to affirm or reject a sitting Governor.

  • Brian, if McDonnell wants to run in 2017, voters can confirm or reject him then.

  • Fat Dave

    I think it is a boon to the Commonwealth that a Governor can spend his first term actually governing, not campaigning for his second term.

  • William Bailey

    Politics was never intended to be a career. One term is fine and the record of Virginia relects as much.

  • Henry Ryto

    The big problem is that you spend 6 months getting the new administration in place, and the final 6 months of the administration your appointees are busy looking for other jobs.

    Kirwin and I agree: we should allow two-term Governors.

  • ColinB

    Stop worrying about term limits for the Governor and start worrying about getting a full-time Attorney General.

    The last time a Democrat AG served their entire term was in 1970, for a Republican it was 1982. Since then every AG that was elected, not appointed, ran for Governor.

  • VA is for Politics

    The only way a two-term Governor bill will ever pass the General Assembly is if they strip away some of his appointment power. Virginia has one of the most powerful governors in the nation, because while in most state the Secretary of State is a separate elected position, in Virginia our Secretary of State (i.e. “Secretary of the Commonwealth”) is appointed by the Governor.

    Since in Virginia our Governor has the power through his appointed Sec. of Commonwealth to appoint every board and commission in the State, it gives the General Assembly little incentive to place that much power for 8 years into our Chief Executive.

    Compromise? Introduce a bill that allows the Governor to serve two consecutive terms while having an amendment or companion bill that allows the Secretary of the Commonwealth to be elected the same year s the LG and AG.

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