GOP legislator wants to take constant ‘campaign mode’ out of lawmaking

Paulina Pineda//January 5, 2018

GOP legislator wants to take constant ‘campaign mode’ out of lawmaking

Paulina Pineda//January 5, 2018

Rep. Drew John (R-Safford)
Rep. Drew John (R-Safford)

Rep. Drew John, R-Safford, is proposing to extend terms for members of both the House and Senate.

John, a freshman lawmaker, is planning to introduce legislation that would double legislators’ terms to four years from two. The change would still abide by Arizona’s eight-year term limits, holding members to a maximum of two terms instead of four.

The ballot measure would amend the state Constitution, subject to voter approval.

“I’ve served five four-year terms as a school board member and a county supervisor and it kind of hit me upside the head when right after my first session some people came up to me and said, ‘We need to do a fundraiser.’ I’m thinking we just had one,” he said. “I have a lot of things to do, I have to go out and talk to my constituents, I need to tell them the whole story, not part of the story, and now I’m in campaign mode again.”

John said extending term lengths would allow lawmakers to accomplish more during their time at the Legislature and build better relationships with their colleagues, the Governor’s Office and lobbyists, instead of always having their sights set on the next election.

“I just believe, if nothing else, you have two years in the middle of good production, get some things done, look at some things, instead of being in a rush because you might not be here next year,” he said. “We’re always in campaign mode and I just don’t think it’s healthy or good for the people.”

It would also lead to stability and consistency in the Legislature – more than one-third of the members of House last year were newly elected lawmakers with little previous governmental or law making experience – and allow for the development and preservation of institutional knowledge, he said.

The change wouldn’t go into effect until the Legislature’s 56th session in 2023. Lawmakers who were elected to serve a two-year term beginning in 2021 would be allowed to serve two consecutive four-year terms under the proposed bill without violating the state’s eight-year term limit.

John said he also looked at staggering elections but it “created too many problems.”

The bill will be similar to a concurrent resolution Senate President Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, sponsored last year that sought to extend term for state senators to four years from two. SCR1027 passed in the Senate 19-11 but failed to get through the House.

However, John said he thinks his version will face less opposition from members of his chamber.

“I already know the Senate president said he can get it through the Senate. I think it will get through the House,” he said. “I think the biggest problem we had last year was maybe some pride got involved – why do they (senators) get four years and we get two years?”

He said he has talked to many of his colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, and has received positive feedback.

“I’ve gotten a good response from leadership, from past leadership, I’ve talked to the public. The public is a little scared about it because they think it’s a way to get around term limits, but it’s important to say this doesn’t do away with that,” he said.

John said he received the final draft of his proposed bill earlier this week and plans to meet with Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, one final time before introducing the legislation early next week.