CHARLESTON — Two southern West Virginia sheriffs think voters deserve the right to decide if they can keep their badges pinned on for three straight terms instead of two.

That’s the idea behind a proposal to allow sheriffs to serve three consecutive terms if voters say it’s all right in a constitutional amendment.

That issue was never broached Wednesday, however, since the House Constitutional Revision Committee came to abrupt halt.

Chairman Joe Talbott, D-Webster, said the Senate would run the issue through its chamber, and Sen. Shirley Love, D-Fayette, confirmed he had such a bill drafted.

Republican delegates, however, saw it as another stalling tactic to avert a showdown on GOP causes — a constitutional amendment to scrap the food tax, put teeth in eminent domain and raise the homestead exemption for seniors.

Changing times dictate that sheriffs be allowed to serve more than two successive four-year terms, Raleigh County Sheriff Danny Moore said.

“It takes years to get programs started, as you well know,” Moore said in an interview before the aborted meeting.

“Right now, by the time you get things started, it’s time to get out. A new man has to come in and has to learn all those tax laws because people forget we’re the treasurer of the county also.”

Moore, serving his second term as both Raleigh’s sheriff and head of the West Virginia Sheriffs Association, said a sheriff needs the ability to serve 12 consecutive years to see law enforcement programs to fruition.

“We want to put it back into the people’s hands,” he said.

“Why shouldn’t the voters decide? We’re depriving the voters of the right to pick and choose.”

Only three or four states insist on a limit of two terms, Moore said.

Fayette County Sheriff Bill Laird said term limits were imposed in a pre-civil service area when politics played a heavier hand in running the departments.

In fact, he pointed out, the Constitution was amended in 1973 to allow two consecutive terms.

A follow-up effort in 1994 for unlimited terms was defeated soundly, he noted.

Laird is serving his second straight term after running the sheriff’s office in Fayette County two other terms in the 1990s. During the break, he served a stint in the House of Delegates.

“No more than three consecutive terms is a reasonable opportunity to bring continuity in terms of the office,” Laird said.

“It’s gotten increasingly complex with homeland security requirements and a lot of things we have going at the local level. The times have changed and the requirements of that office have changed also.”

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