Term limits for Columbia County commissioners?

If local lawmakers agree, Colum­bia County voters this year could decide to limit the time county commissioners serve in office.

Under a proposal offered Tuesday by Commission Chairman Ron Cross at a meeting of the Management and Financial Services Committee, the commission soon will discuss whether to send a formal proposal to the county’s legislative delegation.

Lawmakers then could place a binding referendum on county ballots as early as July, allowing voters to decide whether to limit commissioners to two consecutive terms.

“We’ve been kicking it around three or four years,” Cross said.

“I’m in favor of term limits, though of course I’m not a good example to say,” he added. Cross is serving his third four-year term as the first countywide elected chairman.

Under the proposal, which would require approval by the full commission before it could be sent to lawmakers, commissioners and the chairman would be limited to two four-year terms and then would be required to sit out for at least one year before seeking the same office again.

The measure would not apply to members of the school board unless lawmakers included them as part of the referendum. Those offices share the same districts as commissioners.

County commissioners, school board members and the chairmen of both bodies serve four-year terms, with elections staggered so that no more than three from each body are up for election in an election year.

“I wish we could do it with federal, state and local,” Cross said. “I think the public would be in favor of it.”

State lawmakers are elected to two-year terms with no limits on the number of terms they can serve. U.S. House members can serve unlimited two-year terms, while U.S. senators can serve unlimited 6-year terms. Only Georgia’s governor, like the U.S. president, is limited to two consecutive four-year terms.

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