There is a growing debate in Austin over term limits for statewide offices. A bill that would limit the Governor, Land Commissioner, and other statewide officials to two terms gained approval on Monday from the Senate State Affairs Committee. According to, the bill would grandfather in current state offices.

The bill’s author, Sen. Kevin Eltife of Tyler, said afterward that his measure does not include state senators and representatives because he wants it to succeed.

“I’ve always been a supporter of term limits,” the Republican said, noting his own tenure as Tyler mayor had ended on a term limit. “I would be fine with term limits on my own office, absolutely. But you’ve got to start somewhere.”

The measure grandfathers statewide office holders.

Eltife’s Senate Joint Resolution 13 would ask voters in November to decide whether to put the limits into the state constitution. It must win a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature for a constitutional amendment referendum to be called.

The senator told the State Affairs Committee that term limits create the opportunity for more diverse voices in state government. It’s a rare candidate who will risk the resources necessary to go up against a longtime, statewide incumbent, he said.

“The higher up the food chain, the harder it is to have competitive races,” he said. “This creates open seats, debate. It would create more competition and more open seats.”

The measure does not apply to statewide judicial offices.

The bill was backed during Monday’s public hearing by Texans for Term Limits founder George Seay, who said eight out of 10 Texans polled favor term limits. He did not give Vice Chairman Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, a reason why voters repeatedly re-elect incumbents.

Eltife said he also favors term limits for House and Senate members. He did not include them to boost the chances the resolution will pass the two-thirds benchmark.

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