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MERCER: Legislators don't seem to listen on term limits

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PIERRE -- Never underestimate Charlie Hoffman.

He is a state representative from McPherson County, a Republican, rancher, son of a one-time candidate for governor, father of successful children and husband of Holly, who needs no introduction if you watch the TV program "Survivor."

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Now he's promising to take to the streets and highways of South Dakota in the months ahead in an attempt to change about 100,000 minds.

He has pledged to campaign for expanding term limits for legislators so they can serve longer.

The state constitution currently allows a legislator to serve no more than four consecutive terms in the same chamber (and extra time if they're first appointed to a vacant seat).

That's been the case since voters approved term limits for representatives and senators in 1992.

There's no prohibition against bouncing back and forth between chambers. There's nothing that bars a legislator from taking a break and coming back later. There's no maximum of years.

Hoffman wants to change to six consecutive terms -- 12 years -- in the same chamber.

The House of Representatives approved his proposal 54-16 on Wednesday. That gets it halfway to the November ballot.

The Senate now has the final word. Hoffman has 11 House co-sponsors on his resolution, HJR 1002. But he has just one senator: Republican Dan Lederman of Dakota Dunes.

Proposals to change term limits are a standard piece of legislative sessions. Three in 2013. Two in 2012. One in 2011. One in 2010. One in 2009.

Lawmakers just can't seem to hear the voters.

The Legislature in 2008 asked voters to eliminate term limits. Their answer was 87,380 yes and 272,635 no.

The 1992 measure creating term limits passed by a very large margin too: 205.074 yes and 117,702 no.

Eight current legislators are term-limited this year.

The senators are Jean Hunhoff of Yankton and Ryan Maher of Isabel. Both are Republicans.

The representatives are Lance Carson of Mitchell, David Lust of Rapid City, David Novstrup of Aberdeen, Betty Olson of Prairie City and Manny Steele of Sioux Falls, all Republicans; and Democrat Marc Feinstein of Sioux Falls.

All six representatives voted in favor of Hoffman's resolution Wednesday, although it has no direct relief for them.

Looking ahead, there are six senators and 19 House members who would be in their fourth consecutive and therefore final term if they won re-election this fall to the same seats.

Fourteen of those representatives voted for Hoffman's resolution. The Republicans were Hoffman, Jim Bolin of Canton, Justin Cronin of Gettysburg, Brian Gosch of Rapid City, Fred Romkema of Spearfish, Jacqueline Sly of Rapid City, Roger Solum of Watertown and Dean Wink of Howes.

The Democrats were Dennis Feickert of Aberdeen, Peggy Gibson of Huron, Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton, Kevin Killer of Pine Ridge, Patrick Kirschman of Sioux Falls and Susan Wismer of Britton.

The five no votes came from Democrat Dean Schrempp of Lantry and Republicans Brock Greenfield of Clark, Don Kopp of Rapid City, Lance Russell of Hot Springs and Mike Verchio of Hill City.

Do those votes matter to voters? We'll check back after the Nov. 4 elections to see. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for Charlie.

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