Farmington — A Navajo lawmaker has introduced a pair of bills to place two referendums on this year's election ballot to limit the number of terms an individual can serve as a council delegate or as tribal president.
Delegate Russell Begaye, who represents Shiprock, is sponsoring two pieces of legislation to authorize the Navajo Nation Council to place the referendums on this year's ballot.
"For me, I would like to see the people vote on it," Begaye said.
Under current law, a term for delegates and the president is four years.
There are no limits for a number of terms a delegate may serve and the president is limited to two consecutive terms.
Although the president is limited to two consecutive terms, that person is allowed to sit out a term and run again.
One of the referendums would establish a lifetime term limit for delegates at four terms, or 16 years.
The second referendum would cap the lifetime term limit for the president at two terms, or eight years.
Begaye, who has announced his presidential candidacy, said he is sponsoring the bills that contain the referendums because it would limit the growth of power some long serving politicians seem to acquire, which can hinder the government process.
As of May 5, Begaye has not filed his candidacy paperwork, according to the list of election candidates released by the Navajo Election Administration.
It is also a way to encourage individuals to consider running for office and bring new ideas to the executive and legislative branches, Begaye said.
This year's election will determine the make up of the council as well as the presidency.
The bill has raised concern with presidential candidate Joe Shirley Jr.'s campaign, which in a press release on Monday, called the legislation "unfair" and "unneeded" because in 2010 the Navajo Nation Supreme Court ruled that a person who serves two consecutive terms is not blocked from seeking another presidential term after they sit out a term.
When asked if this bill is targeting Shirley's candidacy, Begaye said, "It will not impact the people currently running for council or president."
He added that if voters approve the referendums, it would apply to the 2018 election.
Both bills received a "do pass" recommendation on May 1 from the Law and Order Committee and will continue on to the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee then to the council, where final authority rests.
If the council approves the bills, it would be up to tribal lawmakers to determine if the referendums would appear on the primary ballot in August or the general election ballot in November, said Johnny Thompson, assistant program manager for election administration.
Begaye sponsored a similar term limits bill during the spring session in April, where it failed.
It needed at least 16 votes to pass.