Term Limits

IV – Term limits as proposed in a 28th Amendment.

Term limits proposals are an attempt to limit the number of terms legislators could be elected. You could think of it as a farm system which allowed the cream to rise to the top. In the proposed 28th Amendment United States Senators would be allowed to serve no more than two six year terms and members of the House of Representatives could serve no more than three two year terms. It would be up to each state to decide upon term limits for their states. Many states already have term limits for their state executive. California is one state of fifteen that has implemented term limits on their legislature. The states with term limits for their legislatures are: Maine, Colorado, Arkansas, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Louisiana, and Nevada.

Looking at the current U. S. Senate, 37 of the current Senators would not be able to serve. Twenty six Senators are in their first term and 37 are serving their second term. One senator is serving his eighth term and one is serving his seventh term. That is 46 and 40 years of serving in the Senate. Many of the 37 are in leadership positions. Term Limits would allow others to serve in those leadership positions removing Senators entrenched in those offices. The writers of the Constitution envisioned a citizen Congress. Times have brought change but term limits would help to bring our elected representatives closer to the people that elect them. Six years in the house and twelve in the Senate is 18 years of service if someone was elected to the maximum. It was not intended for them to become career legislators.

In the current House of Representatives, there are 59 members who have served longer than twenty years. 119 of them have served more than twelve years. If this Term Limits proposal were to be passed 203 of them would be replaced. The question becomes, when they serve that long, are they serving the people or themselves. Representatives serving in their last or third term would not have to worry about being reelected and could then focus on matters with a different outlook. Currently 63 members are serving their first term with 77 in their second term and 50 are in their third term. The dynamics of Congress would change greatly if term limits were to be implemented.

Many would argue that we have term limits in place already. It is called the ballot box. When the people choose a non incumbent to represent them it is usually for a reason. If they choose to send the same person back to Washington, or the state capital, to represent them, what right does someone from another state or area have to tell them who they can vote for. Those pushing Term Limits are generally those who may not like a leader from another party and/or state who has seniority or has been serving a long time. The numbers show that a large percent of the members of Congress are serving their first or second terms in the House and the same is true in the Senate.

A look at state legislatures would find that turnover may be even greater than what we have for our national. At least one such study has found this to be true especially in those states who meet once a year for a few months. We want term limits on the other person’s elected official but, not our own, who we keep electing. Many people approach an election saying “throw the bums out” or “don’t vote for any incumbents.” The incumbents usually get re-elected. In a study of the effects of term limits involving governmental units in southeast Idaho, it was found that the average number of candidates for positions was 2. Open seats, population, and partisan vs. nonpartisan positions were factors in the number of candidates for elected positions. (Stucki, unpublished.)

Category: National and State