Russell Begaye
Russell Begaye (Noel Smith — The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Council delegate from Shiprock Chapter has introduced new legislation that would ask Navajo voters to set a term limit for the tribal presidency.

The bill, which was posted last week on the council's website, asks council delegates to place a referendum before Navajo voters to legally restrict an individual's presidency to two terms, or eight years, for the lifetime of the person.

Delegate Russell Begaye is sponsoring the bill and said that restricting the number of terms would help curb the potential for one person to overreach their authority and would encourage new leadership and direction.

If council members approve the bill, the referendum would be placed on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

The referendum would require a majority of votes in favor to pass, according to the bill.

If voters approved the measure, it would not go into effect until the 2018 election.

Under current law, the president is limited to two terms.

But in 2010, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court interpreted that provision to mean two consecutive terms and not a two-term limit in a lifetime, which allows an individual to sit out a term then run again for the presidency.

According to the section of the Navajo Election Code that outlines the referendum and initiative process, a referendum may be put to voters by the council when the legislative body determines by resolution that the people should decide the measure.

The legislation became eligible for committee action on Sunday and was assigned to the Law and Order and Naa'bik'íyáti' committees and the council, where final authority rests.

Begaye sponsored a similar bill in April but its language did not specify that the term limit restriction would take effect in 2018.

According to the Legislative Branch, Begaye submitted a withdrawal form for the legislation on July 25.

On Monday, Begaye confirmed that he withdrew the bill and said his reasons were to clarify its intent and its language.

"Because my intent was to begin in 2018," Begaye said.

He also withdrew another bill that would have amended the number of terms an individual can serve on the council.

An updated version of that proposal will be sponsored by Begaye and made available in the near future.

This latest version could be viewed as Begaye's third attempt to amend the tribe's term limits.

During the spring session in April, Begaye sponsored legislation to amend the term limits for the president and delegates.

That bill failed on a vote of 11 in favor and nine opposed on April 22.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636. nsmith@daily-times.com Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.