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October 21, 2018 - 10:52am

County legislature chair asks voters to support four-year terms

posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, news.

Statement from Genesee County Legislature Chairman Bob Bausch:

November 6th is Election Day. On the ballot is a proposal to change the term of office for county legislators from two to four years. This proposal is widely supported and now the voters are being asked for their support.

In 1967, the voters of Genesee County approved a change in the format of county government from a Board of Supervisors to a County Legislature. The term of office for the legislators was set at two years to mirror the terms of town supervisors, village mayors, town council and village board members as well as other locally elected officials.

In the last 51 years much has changed including extending the terms for many locally elected officials from two to four years. This is due to the breadth of issues and the complexity of local government; plus ever expanding mandates from state and federal governments. During this time, county legislators’ terms have remained at two years to the detriment of the county.

A few examples of the changes in county government over the last 50-plus years would be the addition of Genesee Community College, the Public Defender Office, the Genesee County Parks, the Medicaid program, Office for the Aging, countywide water program, plus numerous other programs that were initiated locally but more often mandated by the state.

During this same period, the county government budget has expanded from $9 to $158 million. Further complicating county finances is the state’s imposed property tax cap with severe penalties to counties if they exceed the tax cap.

The size and complexity of county government creates many challenges for legislators and a two-year term is not adequate to become an effective legislator. Many towns and villages have acknowledged this problem and voters have approved lengthening terms to four years. To become reasonably proficient on county issues is barely possible in two years as any newly elected legislator can attest.

An issue that all governments are facing is finding local candidates for public offices. During the past election cycles for the nine legislative seats, on average only one district seat was contested in either a primary or general election. There are many reasons fewer citizens choose not to seek elected office; the requirement to campaign every two years is among those reasons.

The proposal, if approved by the voters, would authorize staggered four-year terms, i.e.: four legislator districts would be up in one year, and two years later the other five districts would be up for election. This would allow better continuity on the legislature. Also, minority political parties and other interested organizations would be better able to concentrate their efforts.

The county legislature commissioned two countywide studies of the issue over the years, with bipartisan groups recommending an increase in term length to four years. Now it is up to the Genesee County voters, so please give this proposal your serious consideration. The proposal will appear on the back of the paper ballot on Election Day.

Brian Heick
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"To become reasonably proficient on county issues is barely possible in two years"

So the complexity of government takes 2 years to become proficient in being a good legislator? I guess New York State senators and assemblymen are inadequate at running state business then with 2 year terms.

Edit: How about we just leave the law as it has been and if they are doing a good job, reelect them as a reward. Sound good to me :D

John Roach
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Leave it at 2 years. That way, if they do something we really do not feel was right, we get to vote them out.in 2 years instead of having to wait 4.

The bigger point is that our US Representatives (Congress) and our New York State Assembly and Senate members all run every 2 years. Is it really harder to get a proficient on County issues than national or State ones? I doubt it. If f2 years is good enough for the 435 members of the House of Representatives in the United States Congress and our 150 members in the State Assembly and the 63 State Senate representatives, if should be good enough for 9 Genesee County Legislators.

John Roach
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A side note: This same proposal was voted down by the people a few years ago.

Daniel Norstrand
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I'm thinking that the fact that this is being pushed is a great reason for a new blood in our legislature.

Daniel Norstrand
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The line of thinking here would, by a rather natural extrapolation, dictate that the president should be crowned for life. Considering the length of time it would take to be proficient on state's, national, international, and world issues.

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