The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday took a major step towards placing a measure to extend term limits and enact ethics reforms on the citywide ballot this fall.


After impassioned speeches, the Council voted 14 to 0 to give preliminary approval to the controversial measure, which was brought to the Council by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters. (The only non-voting councilmember, Jack Weiss, was in Israel.)


The measure must still pass another Council vote before it can be placed on the November 7 ballot, but given the preliminary vote, that second vote is likely to be a mere formality.


The measure had stirred up considerable controversy before Wednesday's vote. Some questioned whether current city councilmembers should be allowed to serve an additional term, while City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo expressed legal concerns about joining ethics reforms to the term-limits extension.


Still others said that by giving councilmembers three terms but leaving the mayor and other citywide officeholders with two terms would create an imbalance of power in favor of the City Council.


But in a debate Wednesday, councilmembers brushed aside these concerns, saying voters deserved the chance to vote on all the proposals.


Specifically, the measure would amend the city charter to extend the current two-term limit for councilmembers, allowing all current and future members to run for a third term. It also would put to voters a series of charter amendments that would codify already enacted ethics reforms.


The ethics reforms in the measure include:


* Prohibiting lobbyists doing business before the city from making campaign contributions and giving gifts to city officeholders;


* Prohibiting lobbyists from sitting on city commissions;


* Requiring all city contractors to comply with city ethics laws on campaign contributions;


* Requiring all elected officials to go through ethics training; and


* Extending the prohibition on former city officials from lobbying City Hall from the current one year to two years.


Voters passed two-term limits for City Council members and all elected citywide officeholders Mayor, City Attorney and City Controller in 1993 during the height of a nationwide term-limit frenzy. Also, the late Mayor Tom Bradley had just served five terms, the last dominated by an ethics scandal and criticism that he was increasingly out-of-touch with citizens.


Then-mayoral candidate Richard Riordan campaigned vigorously for the measure. But last month, Riordan publicly said that two-term limits on councilmembers was a mistake and he threw his support to the current effort to give councilmembers another term.

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