Hardy seeks term limits for sheriffs, judges, district attorneys

by Walter Pierce

The Lafayette Democrat believes some parishwide elected officials get an indefinite term in office through incumbency; he wants to open up the process to 'the little man.' Rep. Rickey Hardy's bill to create a Who Dat license plate has gotten much of the press, but another bill prefiled by the Lafayette Democrat would have more far-reaching consequences. House Bill 101 would impose term limits on judges, sheriffs and district attorneys. Currently district court judges and district attorneys serve six-year terms (appellate judges serve 10-year terms); sheriffs serve four-year terms.

Hardy's bill would impose a three-term limit on those elected officials beginning in January of 2011; terms which began before Jan. 1, 2011 would not be subject to retroactive term limits. For example, if Lafayette Sheriff Mike Neustrom, first elected in 1999 and now in his third term in office, is reelected or runs unopposed in 2011, his three-term limit would kick in with the start of his fourth term beginning in 2012.

"If it's good for the governor, it's good for the lieutenant governor, it's good for the attorney general, it's good for the Legislature, then it should be good for everybody else," Hardy says of his rationale for filing the bill, adding that incumbency often means a lock on office. "It allows the little man to be able to participate in democracy, and to elect the D.A.s and judges and sheriffs, because we all know in the state of Louisiana, once you become an elected official it takes an act of Congress to remove you, and it gives no one else a chance to be able to serve."

It takes a change to the Louisiana constitution to impose term limits on elected officials. Consequently, HB101 would require a two-thirds vote by both chambers of the Legislature as well as approval by voters statewide.

Hardy is far and away the most energetic among the Acadiana legislative delegation when it comes to prefiling legislation. Among the dozen bills filed by the former school board rep ahead of the spring session is a bill that would require persons arrested for DWI be subject to a mandatory 48-hour stay in jail before bailing out; a bill that would criminalize saggy pants with a first-offense comprising a $500 fine and 40 hours of community service; and a bill that would double the drug-free zone around schools and other designated areas from the current 1,000 feet. Hardy is also reprising legislation that would require persons convicted of some drug offense to have a special license plate or identification card.

Bills prefiled in both the House and the Senate can be viewed at the Legislature's Web site.