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OHIO TERM LIMITS State senator tries chamber switch for a second time

Sunday, February 29, 2004

An opponent says he's going against the intent of term limits.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- State Sen. Louis Blessing is trying to become the first Ohio lawmaker of the term limits era to switch chambers twice.
He has the blessing of one of the prime movers of the term limits issue overwhelmingly approved in 1992.
Sixty-eight percent of the voters decided to hold legislators to four two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate, beginning in 2000.
Won terms
Blessing, a Republican from Cincinnati, served in the Ohio House from 1983-96. With term limits looming, he won the Senate seat vacated by Republican Stanley Aronoff in 1996 and won re-election in 2000.
He cannot run for another Senate term this year, so he's trying to cross the hall. Three current House members are former senators. The number going the other way is staggering: 24 senators out of 33 used to serve in the House.
Blessing would be the first to go over and back, should he defeat two opponents in Tuesday's GOP primary. He does not think he is going against the intent of the amendment, which allows term-limited candidates to return to a chamber after four years.
Nationwide, 16 states have adopted term limits since 1990. Five more have repealed them, either in their legislatures or the courts. Six states have instituted the "death penalty" -- a lifetime ban on serving in the same chamber once you reach the limit.
Blessing is pleased that Ohio isn't one of them. If he's elected to the House, he'll join a handful of lawmakers across the country who have gone from one chamber to the other and then back.
"I enjoy public service," Blessing, a lawyer, said. "When you legislate, you affect 11 million people at a time."
Serving in the House again will enable Blessing to keep working on his pet issues, such as utility deregulation, health care, consumer debt and bringing video gambling to Ohio's racetracks, he said.
One of Blessing's opponents in Tuesday's primary, Keith Corman, says though Blessing has every right to be in the race, he is running in the face of the intent of voters who put term limits in place.
"That is not the idea of what term limits was," said Corman, a Colerain Township trustee, as was Blessing before he came to Columbus.
However, Corman would not rule out switching chambers should he serve eight years in the House.
"I'd have to see how it shook up by the end," he said. "I really don't know what I'd say about eight years from now."
Not a career-ender
David Zanotti, president of the conservative Ohio Roundtable, said term limits never were meant to end careers in public service. He cites as an example John Quincy Adams, who served in Congress after his term as the sixth president.
He said the idea was to prevent the political empires built by lawmakers such as Aronoff, a former Senate president who was in the Legislature for 36 years, and the late Vern Riffe, who was speaker of the House for 22 years.
Zanotti, who helped lead the campaign to get term limits adopted, opposes Blessing on the video gambling issue but has no quarrel with Blessing's plan to move back to the House.
"There's very little I find in agreement with Senator Blessing, but I admire his commitment to public service," Zanotti said.
However, term limits is another area where they disagree.
"What they do is deny voters a choice of candidates," Blessing said.