POUGHKEEPSIE – The Dutchess County Legislature has had a de facto term limit, without enacting one. Only two of the current 25 legislators have been around for more than 12 years – Republican Marge Horton and Democrat Barbara Jeter-Jackson. The third senior member, Republican James Miccio will step down in December, after three terms.
Beginning January 1, 2020, legislators will be limited to six two-year terms. County executive will be limited to three four-year terms, also beginning January 1. Comptroller will also have a three-term limit, beginning with the four-year term beginning on January 1, 2022.
All of that is via a local law approved with little dissent and after little debate Monday night.
Republican Will Truitt said it is long overdue.
“We need to do all that we can to combat corruption and stagnation in government and I think by imposing term limits is a great way to do that,” Truitt said. “It’s so important to bring new voices and just a diversity of people to the body.”
Democrat Kristofer Munn, the assistant minority leader, also supported it but with less enthusiasm. He brought his own version of the law that he argued contained language missing from what was adopted.
“But the formatting on the paper – I’m using it as a sample formatting where I have, it says ‘shall be amended as follows …’ and that kind of language does not appear in the law that’s before us and I’m concerned that this will subject us to a lawsuit and that these term limits will not persist and again, it will cost the county money,” Munn said.
That was the short part of the meeting. It followed a much longer and unresolved debate over a proposed code of ethics for officers and employees and requiring financial disclosure for some officers and employees.
That was a big part of the contention – who would be covered.
Democrat Rebecca Edwards chimed in.
“There was a desire to have the county strengthen our code of ethics because the state code we were drawing on does not include domestic partners and so the ‘member of household’ language was added at the county level, not at the state level to try to cover that domestic partnership,” Edwards said.
That was but one of several points of clarification that led to a series of amendments. Because so many amendments were made during the almost two-hour debate, the local law will go back to committee with a possible vote perhaps in April.