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Liu, Comrie support overturning term limits

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who is gearing up for a run at citywide office, said he was opposed to term limits that will force him out of his Council seat next year but disagrees with the mayor's reported plan to overturn the will of voters through new legislation.

"Perhaps the voters should be given a third chance," Liu said, referring to voters who twice opposed overturning term limits in referendums.

If the mayor decided to overturn term limits, he would have to present a bill to the City Council so the chamber could vote on the issue.

Liu's colleague, City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who is widely expected to be considering a run for borough president, also said he was opposed to term limits but "would have to see the full extent of what is being proposed in such a bill" before commenting on whether he would support a change.

The term limit debate heated up last month after Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, like most Council members, will be term limited out of office next year, was said to be mulling overturning the two-term limit without giving voters a chance to have their say.

City Comptroller William Thompson, a declared candidate for mayor, called on Bloomberg to give his position publicly.

"It is time that the mayor clearly state his position, and not continue this charade," Thompson said in a statement Tuesday.

"I believe the time has come for the mayor to clearly, truthfully and directly let the people of New York City know whether he supports term limit extensions," Thompson said in the statement. "And, if in fact he intends to support such a measure, whether he plans to place it before voters or would instead sign legislation to allow it to move forward."

Thompson said he believes Council members' terms should be extended by another four years, but like Liu, said it should not be done without voter consent.

"I, and so many others who hold office in our city today, have personally benefitted from term limits," he said. "Yet, it is simply not right to ignore the will of the voters and pass legislation that relegates their opinion — and their rights — to second-class status."

If term limits were overturned or extended, it would put the city campaign finance system in upheaval because Council members currently running for city or statewide office deal with larger contribution and spending limits than they would if they were to run again for their council seat.

"There are definitely a couple of tricky situations," said Campaign Finance Board spokesman Eric Friedman. "It's going to make it complicated for the candidates and make this complicated for us."

For instance, if a candidate were running for state Senate, contributions are $9,500 for the general election, compared to $2,750 for City Council.

If such a candidate chose to drop his state campaign to run again for his Council seat, he would have to return his state contributions and have those donors pour their money back into the Council account in order to ensure he does not go over the limit or they risk campaign finance violations, Friedman said.

Expenditures make the process even more convoluted because it entails money that has already been spent in excess of city limits.

In that case, the Campaign Finance Board is considering not penalizing such candidates because funds would have been spent before term limits were repealed, Friedman said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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