New NY Governor to propose term limits on her own job

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Here’s a riddle for you. When does an elected official propose imposing term limits on their own office? We’ll take a stab at the answer to that puzzle in a moment, but the reason for posing the question is found in a preview of recently installed New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s upcoming State of the State address, scheduled for tomorrow evening. She plans to announce her support for an amendment to the state constitution that would restrict all statewide elected officials to two consecutive terms. This would apply to not only herself, but her lieutenant governor, the Attorney General, and the comptroller. While rolling out the details of her proposal, she also managed to get in a few unsubtle digs at the man she replaced, disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo. (The Hill)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced on Monday that she will propose term limits for elected officials in the Empire State, including governors.

Hochul said the push to institute term limits for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller will be the first proposal in her 2022 State of the State, which she is slated to deliver on Wednesday.

It is the first such address Hochul will give as governor of New York.

Hochul talked about “restoring trust in government” and delivering “open, ethical governing.” That was clearly a dig aimed at Andrew Cuomo, which she reinforced by saying, “I want people to believe in their government again.”

The specifics of the term limit proposal were also something of a shot across the bow at Cuomo. He was in his third term when he was forced to resign as Governor and was seriously contemplating a fourth term.

Simply proposing a constitutional amendment isn’t the same thing as making it happen. The proposal would have to be approved by the state legislature and then by a referendum placed in front of the voters. You’ll notice that her proposal would not apply to members of the legislature. If it had, it would be dead in the water because those jokers are never going to vote to limit their own time in office.

So, getting back to the riddle I posed at the top of this article, why would Hochul put forth a suggestion that would limit her own time in power? A couple of reasons come to mind. One is the possibility that term limits are always a popular idea among many voters, but getting them put in place is far from a certainty. She might be attempting to eat her cake and have it too by pitching something she suspects will be popular, but would be unlikely to go into effect until well after her time in office is over.

There’s another possibility that came to my mind almost immediately. Cuomo’s departure lit a fire under the Democrats in New York, with many ambitious people quickly signaling that they would be very interested in replacing Hochul next year when she runs for her own full term. Many of them are players with a lot of power in New York City, while Hochul comes from upstate and doesn’t carry as much clout. She might not think she’ll get another term of her own anyway and is just trying to leave this term limits proposal as a poison pill for whoever replaces her.

I will certainly be supporting the measure, not that I have all that much confidence that it will pass. But if she somehow manages to get it onto the ballot as a referendum, it could very well pass into law via a new change to the state constitution. But I would be willing to bet that it winds up including some sort of grandfather clause saying that it won’t apply to anyone currently in office when it goes into effect.