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UPDATE: Avella Pushes Term Limits in Albany

Proposed legislation would limit state lawmakers to 16 years in office

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..."

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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."

Mitch Schwadron February 08, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Toby Avella should understand that he will be term limited to one term, but it will give him enough time, with his years on the Stavisky staff and in the city council to collect a nice fat pension on the city and state dime. A combination of factors is at play here, one being a plan to redistrict both Toby's into the same district, and everyone who had lost a primary for city council in the areas covered by the "new" senate district running for the seat. Even though rules allow people not in the "new" district to run, and they have one term to move into the "new" district, it should make for an interesting mix. In a 15 way primary, either incumbant could win, it just depends on how much backing the party and the parkside group will give their client. We will also see if the UFT continues with either Toby, or if they pick another winner. But as of now the unions have more to say in Toby's agenda than the people who voted for them do. This is not about star power, but about the union's millions, and phone banks and on the street elction day operations and street actions that will be needed to sway the voting population to vote for "their" candidate in this upcomning madhouse, the carnage yet to come. It will be a char house of a race. I hope for our sake( the voters and the people who live here) that neither of the Toby's arise from the ashes as a phoenix reborn, as retirement suits them all too well.

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