Smith, assembly could address term limit ordinance at Tuesday meeting

Bill Smith, a Kenai Peninsula Borough assemblyman, said a recent action taken by the assembly drew questions from the both assembly members, the public and others.

 

That criticism was over whether or not the assembly had sufficiently followed procedure when approving Ordinance 2011-24, a now two-and-a-half-month-old ordinance that sought to redefine assembly term limits.

Specifically, the ordinance was significantly changed just before being passed by amendments proposed by assembly member Linda Murphy.

Those amendments were significant enough that borough mayor Dave Carey vetoed the ordinance Friday, citing concerns that the public wasn’t given enough time to consider Murphy’s idea.

“My feeling was, ‘Why fight about it? We’ll just do it over,’” Smith said.

“And we need to readdress the situation anyways because after I gave it some consideration, I realized the Murphy amendment was not — even though it was simple and reflects what is right for the mayor — its not right for the assembly.”

The assembly has up to 21 days from Friday to take action on the matter. A two-thirds vote can overturn Carey’s veto. The assembly can either take up the issue at its Tuesday meeting or call a special meeting to consider an action.

Smith said he is prepared to offer amendments in either case — whether the veto remains, or the Murphy amendment becomes code after a two-thirds overturning vote from the assembly.

“I do think we need to address this in a rational way and realize that there will be interrupted terms,” he said. “After we get by reapportionment next year and things even out, then almost all the time, people will serve full three year terms and it won’t be an issue.”

The ordinance was first introduced in early June by assembly president Gary Knopp and originally sought to add an extra term to the time assembly members could serve before being required to take a break in service. It also sought to redefine a term as three full years.

Currently, as a result of a citizen initiative, assembly members are limited to serving two terms, with the definition of a term being any or all of a three-year term.

Several amendments were offered to Ordinance 2011-24 at later meetings and changed it so much, members delayed voting to hear more public feedback. It was brought back at the assembly’s Aug. 2 meeting, where after two residents testified, the Murphy amendment was introduced and passed without being mulled by the public.

The Murphy amendment contained language that changed assembly term limits to mirror the mayoral term limits and did not have to go before voters in the October election — both significant changes from previous versions of the ordinance.

It would have taken effect on Oct. 14 and changed term limits to read that “no person who has completed two consecutive full terms on the assembly may serve another term or portion of a term until a period of 180 days has passed since the end of his second consecutive full term of office.

“A full term of office means the regular term of office for assembly and does not include portions of a term served by appointment or election to the remainder of an unexpired term vacated by another person or to a truncated term resulting from assembly redistricting.”

Smith said there are several problems with the ordinance as it passed, mainly stemming from reapportionment and appointment.

The assemblyman used the case of fellow assembly member Hal Smalley as an example.

Smalley, he said, served a three-year term and is up for election this year. However, if he is elected, Smalley will only serve a one-year term due to reapportionment.

At the end of next year, assembly members will all have to stand for election because of reapportionment, which occurs each decade per the results of the U.S. Census.

Under the Murphy amendment, if Smalley serves the one-year term, he will not have served two consecutive three-year terms and will therefore be able to run for two, three-year terms, Smith said.

“I don’t think that’s where the public wants to go,” he said. “I believe two terms is what the people want and we should have that in a reasonable way.”

For that reason, Smith said the amendments he plans to introduce, for whatever action the assembly takes, have to do with the maximum number of years an assembly person can serve before being required to take a break in service and whether or not a member’s two terms have to be consecutive, as they relate to the limits.

Smith, who was told he could be a candidate for re-election to a one year term by the borough attorney under the Murphy amendmended-ordinance, will hit a slight road block if Carey’s veto stands.

“If the mayor’s veto stands and I introduce an ordinance which may allow me to run, that would be unique to my situation so I would have a conflict,” he said. “But, I think we should go forward regardless of what happens with the mayor’s veto and make an amendment to make it more reasonable even if it is more complicated.”

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