Skip to comments.United We Term-Limit
Posted on 10/07/2012 5:11:53 AM PDT by Kaslin
October 7, 2012
Americans are obviously divided on the current presidential race. We disagree, too, on a whole range of social and economic issues. But we remain firmly united when it comes to one straightforward political reform: term limits.
Since 1990, when voters in California, Colorado and Oklahoma passed the first statewide ballot initiatives to limit the number of terms their state legislators could serve, the issue has enjoyed sustained support from whopping majorities in every region of the country, in rural states like Wyoming and in the urban behemoths of New York and Los Angeles.
Before the controversial 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1995, which struck down state-imposed term limits on members of Congress, 23 states, comprising more than 40 percent of the nations population, had passed such laws many by lopsided, two-to-one vote margins, some even greater than three-to-one. Today, though those federal congressional limits were overturned, 15 states limit the terms of their legislatures and 36 states impose a limit on their governor.
There is no gender gap on term limits, no meaningful split by race or income or even political party. But there exists a startling gap of a different sort: an initiative gap.
In the states and cities that enacted term limits, voters had the power to petition the issue onto the ballot. With only a few exceptions, states permitting voters to decide at the ballot box enacted term limits, while in states without the citizen initiative process politicians simply refused to abide by the obvious will of the electorate.
A recent poll commissioned by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University found a whopping 79 percent of that states citizens want term limits for their legislators, against a mere 17 percent in opposition. If Illinoiss pinhole initiative process permitted a term limits measure, the voters would have decided the issue at the ballot box decades ago. And yet what are the chances that Illinoiss legislature will serve the people by placing a term-limit measure on the ballot for citizens to decide?
Its between slim and none . . . minus the slim.
What does this say about our representative government, about government of, by and for the people? It is mere pretense.
Even in states and cities where voters have passed term limits by ballot initiative, our supposed servants in legislatures and city councils have self-servingly sued to overturn the democratic decision of the people they claim to work for. Where initiatives could be repealed Idaho, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Utah come to mind politicians have repealed them. In places where politicians lack the carte blanche authority to veto the work of the voters, our solons have often forced voters to defeat repeated repeals as well as measures to significantly weaken the limits.
The people of Tampa, Florida, and Nashville, Tennessee, have each voted on term limits four separate times, because after the initial vote to enact the concept, the city councils peppered citizens with measures to repeal or severely weaken the limits. Likewise, legislators in Arkansas, California, Maine and Montana have forced re-votes designed to repeal or weaken their limits.
In Idaho, legislators placed an advisory measure on the ballot asking voters to endorse a repeal of term limits. When the voters advised that they wanted to keep the term limits, the spuds in the state legislature repealed them anyway.
In January of 1993, Wyoming legislators started to gut the term limits passed by 77 percent of the vote just two months earlier. Eventually, fiery public opposition stopped the legislative assault, but years later legislators weakened the limits without consulting the people. When the weakened limits were finally set to bite for the first time, legislators sued in state court arguing that limits could only be enacted by a constitutional amendment that only legislators could propose, not citizens through the initiative. The court struck down the limits and Wyoming legislators precisely like their counterparts in Illinois and New York City refuse to act on behalf of the people they pretend to represent.
Nebraska citizens had to pass term limits three times: outrageous court decisions had struck down the first two. The voters backed their third term limit vote by defeating, in a retention election, the state supreme court justice who had authored the negative decisions the first such defeat for a justice in the states history. That final term limits measure was not-so-mysteriously upheld by the court.
Still, not only did the political and judicial resistance delay the limits first enacted in 1992 from taking effect until 2008, the Nebraska Legislature has now stuck Amendment 3 on this years ballot. If passed and it wont be it would weaken the limits by allowing legislators to serve 50 percent longer.
Yesterday, I participated in a forum on state legislative term limits hosted by the Center for Ethics in Public Life at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. A number of academics and legislators spoke, along with just two supporters of term limits: Greg Upchurch, a well-respected patent attorney and businessman who led the 1992 Missourians for Limited Terms campaign, was one; I was the other.
The usual issues were debated experience in office versus experience in the private economy, whether lobbyists and special interests (who hate term limits and have spent considerable sums of money to block or overturn them) are somehow empowered by the limits, and how much credit term limits deserves for not having any speaker convicted and imprisoned for corruption as seemed to be the norm before term limits.
But not discussed enough? Ethics. It is unethical for those holding a position of public trust to refuse to represent the people on the issue of term limits and to instead use their position to serve their own selfish interests. On that, we should all agree.
Term limits & NO nepotism works for me.
Term Limits are a restraint on whom I can vote for.
NO to term limits...
Read the replies by reader Rich656
It's still the best representation the Sauds can buy.
I agree. Term limits are not ensconced in the early thinking of our Framers. They espoused freedom over all, and that includes representation. Sadly, we’ve come a long way from the original thoughts and meanings behind our form of government, and most people would deign to elect the same person ad infinitum for the sake of ease vs. thinking through the process.
Civil citizenship has been replaced by ease of use and self-importance.
Term limits yes, but with the ability for a write in candidate to win, even if this candidate is not eligible regularly because they’ve served and fulfilled their term limits all ready. Let the people decide. If someone is so good the people will write them in when voting, if not the running candidates will win.
Not someone who all ready served can be a write in candidate and win, but just can’t run.
I think that if we stopped giving pensions and any other post-service benefits to elected office holders it would act as a very effective de-facto term limit device.
The anti-Federalists were right on more counts than I care to discuss. Had they had their way, we’d likely have a very different country.
Had the Antis gotten their way, we would never have had a country to begin with.
I like the NH solution, $200 a year and mileage, when the General Court is in session, other than that NADA.
We'll never know for sure, but the Constitution would likely not have been so inclined toward the natural aristocracy, and the feds would have been prohibited from matters involving the internal police of the states.