Lifetime limits for governor, lieutenant governor proposed

Posted March 29, 2017 2:55 p.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2017 3:17 p.m. EDT

Former Gov. Jim Hunt

— A bill that passed the House Judiciary I Committee on Wednesday calls for a constitutional amendment that would limit governors and lieutenant governors to no more than two terms in their lifetimes.

If approved by the General Assembly, the amendment would go before voters in November 2018.

North Carolina governors and lieutenant governors could serve only one term until the state constitution was amended in 1971. Now, the constitution states that no governor or lieutenant governor can serve "more than two consecutive terms." However, it does not preclude a governor from serving two terms, stepping out, and then running again later.

That's precisely what Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt did, becoming the first governor to serve two terms by winning election in 1976 and 1980, and then the only one to serve four by winning election to the office again in 1992 and 1996.

House Bill 105 would remove the word "consecutive" from the constitution, allowing only two terms in one's lifetime.

Sponsor Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham, said he thinks "two terms is enough" and believes most voters back in 1971 probably thought that's what they were approving.

"It’s just a policy decision. We’re the ninth-largest state in the country," Jones said. "We’ve got a lot of qualified people to serve as governor.

"That’s not to cast any disparaging remark about anybody who might aspire to be a governor for more than two terms." Jones added. "There’s only ever been one example of someone who did run for more than two terms. That tells us something, I think."

Jones said it would apply to living former governors and lieutenant governors as well as present and future office holders.

The bill passed unanimously and now goes to the House Elections Committee.