Bontempi: We Need Real Term Limits


By Nolan Cleary

Back in 1993, Suffolk County voters overwhelmingly passed a Referendum imposing term limits of no more than 12 years on county legislators.

Then one of them, Democrat Kate Browning - after being a Legislator for 12 years - "skipped a term" and then ran again, claiming the term limit was "only for successive terms." A local Court agreed with her and let her run, but the voters last fall had had enough, and voted against Browning in the November election.

Browning invoked what critics called the "Putin Loophole" - after Russia's Vladimir Putin, who used the same trick to evade Russia's three term limit for President. Putin "swapped" jobs with his flunky Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, for one term.

Then, four years later, Putin swapped jobs with Medvedev again, to return himself as President. It was the recipe that Putin used to make himself a dictator for life.

To end the antics of Browning and those self-serving politicians seeking to exploit the "Putin Loophole," Suffolk County Legislators have unveiled legislation to solidify real term limits for all positions in the county.

The legislation, proposed by Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport), would limit all elected officials to a total of 12 years in any one position. No "skipping" or "swapping" with fellow party cronies, like Browning tried to do.

“In 1993 Suffolk County voters went to the polls and approved term limits," said Bontempi. "The goal was to provide Suffolk County voters with new candidates who can bring new ideas and new perspectives to their offices. Our communities are ever changing, and leadership should reflect those changes.”

The law would include county executive, comptroller and legislators. A loophole allowing more than 12 years would also be prohibited.

“In 1993 the voters overwhelmingly approved and passed term-limit laws,” said Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey. "Their intent, as was our intent, was to make it a 12-year term. We are going to put it up a referendum for the voters after this resolution is passed, and we expect them to overwhelmingly support this referendum.”

A vote before the Legislature to call the Referendum is expected in June.