Trick or Treat for Term Limits

Halloween is here. For most this means a day of pumpkins, costumes and going door-to-door in search of candy. For some citizens, this is a day to take stock of how governments at all levels remain unaccountable to voters. Term limits for elected officials are a useful check on powerful incumbents. States were busy this year attempting to modify, add or remove term limits. Here is a taste of some of the trick or treats the various stakeholders (voters, states and Congress) undertook.

Treats

15 States with Legislative Term Limits: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota. These states continue to value citizen legislators over career politicians and currently maintain term limits for their respective state legislative officials.

Florida: In March of this year, the Florida Legislature passed a bill calling on Congress to start the constitutional amending process to implement term limits. This was a signal to Congress that they need to act. In order for a Constitutional amendment to take effect it must be approved by two-thirds majority in each chamber of Congress and then 38, or three-fourths of the 50 states must also approve the change. Alternatively, two-thirds of state legislatures could call a Constitutional Convention to consider such an amendment. If this were to occur, three-fourths of the state legislatures would need to approve the change.

Voters: Voters overwhelmingly support term limits for elected officials. In fact, a 2011 Rasmussen poll showed that 71 percent of likely U.S. voters favor term limits for members of Congress with a mere 14 percent opposing them.

Tricks

California: On the June 5, 2012 ballot, California voters approved Proposition 28, a change to the state’s term limits. This truly tricky measure reduced the total number of years a politician can serve in the California State Legislature from 14 years to 12 years, but radically increased the number of years that a legislator can serve in either of those chambers. This change increased the number of years a legislator can remain in the California State Assembly from six years to 12 years (a 100 percent increase). It also increased the number of years a legislator can remain in the California State Senate from eight years to 12 years (a 50 percent increase).

Congress: On February 2, 2012 the U.S. Senate rejected an amendment by a vote of 24 to 75, which supported term limits for members of Congress. If passed, the amendment would have expressed a sense of the Senate that the Constitution ought to be amended to place limits on how long members of Congress can serve.

Our Generation, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization founded in 2009 to research, educate and promote free-market solutions to today’s public policy concerns.