Arizona legislators talking about longer terms

Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler.

Photo by Howard Fischer.

Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler.

PHOENIX – Saying it will lead to greater continuity, more stability and less campaigning, the president of the Arizona Senate wants four-year terms for state lawmakers.

But only for everyone. Just senators.

Steve Yabrough, R-Chandler, said the problem with forcing lawmakers to run every two years is they have to begin fundraising and campaigning almost as soon as they’re elected. He said the biennial campaigns also result in lots of visual pollution in the form of campaign signs.

Yarbrough acknowledged the same situation exists for the 60 members of the House as it does for the 30 senators. He said, though, there is precedent for what he wants: In Congress, senators get six-year terms while representatives have to seek office every two.

But Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said there’s a big flaw to that argument: Things aren’t the same in Phoenix as they are in Washington.

In Congress there are just two senators from every state who are elected statewide; the number of representatives is based on population, with each one chosen by residents of only that district.

By contrast, state senators and lawmakers represent exactly the same districts and are elected by exactly the same voters. The only difference is there is one senator from each district and two representatives.

“If you’re going to go four years, make it for both of us,’’ said Bowers, who has served in both chambers. And he said if one aim is to keep lawmakers from having to effectively start campaigning the moment they’re elected, any legislation should “help us all in our misery.’’

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, echoed that sentiment.

“There’s really no difference between House and Senate in this state,’’ he said. “To bifurcate those and say for terms we’re going to treat one differently than the other, I probably wouldn’t stand in support of that.’’

Yarbrough said the idea of four-year terms -- but only for senators -- is not as radical as it sounds. He said that’s the system in 32 other states. He called it a “good government measure.’’

“If senators can serve four-year terms, obviously we have fewer people out there running for election every two years, less money out of Clean Elections (for publicly financed candidates), less clutter on the side of the road,’’ Yarbrough explained. “I think it would be good for senators to have longer terms to actually, hopefully, do an even better job.’’

And would that logic not also apply to House members?

“If someone wants to advance that I might be willing to support it,’’ Yarbrough responded.