Update, 2/8 11 a.m.: This clarification on the process of amending the New York Constitution (a necessary step in the push to introduce term limits on the state level) comes courtesy of Patch contributor :
"if the amendment or amendments as proposed or as amended shall be agreed to by a majority of the members elected to each of the two houses, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be entered on their journals, and the ayes and noes taken thereon, and referred to the next regular legislative session convening after the succeeding general election of members of the assembly..."
State Sen. Tony Avella recently took an important step in delivering on his campaign promise to bring term limits to Albany.
Avella, D-Bayside, announced his intention to introduce a bill to restrict state elected officials to a total of 16 years in office. The proposed legislation also includes a companion bill to extend Assembly and Senate terms from a duration of two years to four.
The proposal faces an uphill battle in a divided Legislature. Since both bills require changes to the State Constitution, they must be passed by the Senate and Assembly and then placed on the ballot for voter approval.
Despite the political challenges, Avella said he was determined to press for term limits — support for which may have been the deciding factor in his winning campaign last fall against long-serving incumbent state Sen. Frank Padavan.
"Whether or not the legislature is ready to tackle it, we need to start the conversation," Avella said.
Queens Republican Party chairman Phil Ragusa expressed doubts about the bill's chances of passage in Albany's deeply entrenched political environment.
"I don’t think that type of legislation would go anywhere. You’ve got all these people who’ve been there for ages," Ragusa said. "They are not going to sign off on that. If he wants to do something, make it like City Council — make it eight years."
Others active in public life in northeast Queens took a more favorable view of this latest attempt to introduce term limits in Albany.
"It's almost impossible to run against an incumbent," said Community Board 11 chairman Jerry Iannece, who has run several campaigns in northeast Queens. "Term limits are a good thing. No one is indispensable."
To make his point, Iannece pointed to Padavan's long tenure in the state Senate, during which the Republican rebuffed several strong challenges until his defeat in last year's general election to Avella.
"It took 39 years. And the only reason was that incumbents took it on the chin last year," Iannece said.
Avella is no stranger to the term limits debate.
A two-term Council member, Avella championed term limits during his time at City Hall, opposing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's successful push in 2009 for a one-time extension for currently serving elected officials. After the bill's passage, the northeast Queens Democrat chose not to run for a third term.
In a conversation today, Avella said the companion proposal of extending Assembly and Senate terms may have a better chance of attracting support — both from elected officials and a weary voting public.
"Part of the norm in Albany is that legislators are constantly running for office," Avella said. "Basically you have just one session to tackle the important issues."
Still, Avella acknowledged the term limits proposal's long odds among elected officials facing a fiscal crisis of historic proportions.
"Will it be enacted this session? I doubt it," he said. "But we need to start the discussion."