Much is made about term limits in government. People muse, regularly, about the effect of adding term limits to the U.S. Constitution while they talk about career lawmakers with disappointment. Recently, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is receiving a lot of criticism about his desire to loosen, but not trash, Michigan’s term limits law.
According to a Sept.10 article on MLive.com, his plan would expand the number of years a state representative and state senator could serve and would be able to gather petition signatures to get additional terms.
However, there is a lot of downside in term limits, particularly when we only allow an official two or three terms.
When we push our legislators out of office every few years we are flushing our state legislatures of experience and influence, preventing our legislators from focusing on their jobs and subverting the choice of the people.
We all know it takes a while to learn the ropes whenever you start something new, and you are not likely to listen to the newest person in the room. Therefore, while a state representative may serve up to six years, it must take them a while to learn how the system works and gain influence over their colleagues.
It may not sound like much, but my experience as the judicial sergeant of Eastern Michigan University Student Government has shown me that a legislative system can be more complicated than you think and it can take a while for people to get used to it.
After learning how to do their jobs, our legislators must begin planning their futures in public service. If they can run for the other house of the Legislature, they have to think about if and when to run, and whom possible constituents and opponents might be. If they are not running, they need to figure out if they will retire, become lobbyists and run for federal office. And after deciding on what they want, they will have to decide on how to angle to get where they want to be.
If you think not having term limits leads to legislatures being bought, you should think that the lack of experience and pressure to move on makes buying politicians easier.
Finally, why should we have term limits in a system with democratic elections? Term limits drastically limit the choices available to voters.
We are not just telling officials they cannot run again, but we are also telling voters they cannot vote for their official again. A community that may be happy with their state representative or state senator has to pick a new candidate because the government tells them to.
If a community wants new representation, they can vote for a new representative without being legally mandated to. Moreover, if they like their representatives, they should be able to keep their representatives.
If we are going to use elections for people to pick their leaders, they should be able to pick their leaders.