We have our candidates for the upcoming gubernatorial race. The race between Democrat Christine Hallquist and incumbent Phil Scott, a Republican, should prove to be an interesting and historic matchup. Hallquist is the first transgender candidate to appear in a governor's race in U.S. history. The issues on which the candidates end up stumping and debating will likely be the ones we have been hearing for years now: affordability, energy policy, economic development, jobs and education. It feels like we just went through the election cycle, when Scott was squaring off with Democrat Sue Minter, and other fringe candidates. Yet, here we are again. The two-year term for governor feels like a blink of an eye. Perhaps it does not need to be that way. 2019 is the next time Vermont lawmakers could consider a constitutional amendment to create a four-year term for governor. Vermont is one of just two states in the country that still have a two-year term for governor. For the first 80 years that Vermont was a state, governors were elected to a one-year term. In 1870, a two-year term was implemented and it has remained in place for almost 150 years, though in 1880 there was an effort to switch back that failed. Since 1880, there have been 18 efforts to amend the Vermont constitution to expand the governor's term to four years. All 18 attempts have been unsuccessful. Virtually every governor who has been elected over the past 100 years was re-elected to a second term in office — sometimes even a third term, occasionally a fourth term. Former Gov. Howard Dean had five terms. Term length has become a hotly contested issue in Vermont – both politically and academically. Those who argue for two-year terms say it makes governors more accountable to their constituents. Opponents argue that two-year terms do not allow governors enough time to engage in long-term planning. (Vermont does not have a recall process to remove a governor from office, so the two-year term serves as a method of accountability.) In a paper by University of Vermont Professor Anthony Gierzynski in 2016, two-year terms limit the governor's opportunity to develop a sound policy as it “forces the governor to campaign after the first year of his or her term.” In a four-year term, the first year you learn how to be governor, in the second and third year you can do what you hoped to do, and in the fourth year you can seek re-election. Two-year terms obviously truncate that process, and limit what can be done, policy-wise. “In addition, a longer tenure is necessary for intergovernmental relationships to mature so that policy can be more effective,” Gierzynski wrote. Overall, it is believed that four-year terms are more conducive to successful incumbency, he said. It is worth noting, however, that in Vermont all of the governors since 1961 have served at least two terms, suggesting that a two-year term in Vermont is also a de facto four-year term, Gierzynski found. The process to change the term limit seems ridiculously complicated and long. It needs to start in the Senate and it needs to win two-thirds of the votes. Then it goes over to the House, where it has to receive a simple majority. If that happens, you have to wait for a while because the plan has to be considered by the next legislature that's elected. Then it starts in the Senate again — this time it only needs a simple majority, and if it's approved, it goes back to the House. Now if the House approves it that second time, again by a simple majority, it goes to voters in a statewide referendum. In 1974, it actually made it all the way to a statewide referendum but failed. But those were different times. The state has different challenges today, and requires a longer view. The problems facing us are huge; they threaten to continue to plague us fiscally, and without significant changes in policy and tax reform, Vermont will continue to track along a path of unaffordability. We need stability and consistency that comes from a process of creating laws and policies that are proposed, approved, implemented and have some measure of outcomes. That way, we are not constantly building legislation and agendas based off short-term goals and temporary staffs. We cannot keep letting ourselves have our hands tied by decisions that were right for a time. But things change, and they need to. We would support the reintroduction of a constitutional amendment. It is worth having the debate again, both at those political and academic levels. It comes down to sustainability. It comes down to doing the best thing for Vermont.

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