Nov 3, 2009

Support for ending harmful term limits is building

Another brief state government shutdown has illustrated what a disaster term limits are, and a recent survey proves people are fed up with the 14-year experiment.

The latest results from Michigan State University’s State of the State Survey - conducted by the Office for Survey Research in the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) - showed about 61 percent of Michigan residents favored lifting the 14-year lifetime limit on state House and Senate terms to allow politicians to seek office again after a four-year break in service.

The quarterly telephone survey interviewed 1,036 Michigan adults from May 18 through June 30. On a related question, nearly 54 percent of Michigan’s residents favored another change in the state’s legislative term limits – allowing all 14 years to be served in one chamber or the other or divide the 14 years between the two.

Term limits need to be returned to the voters.

Michigan voters amended the Constitution in 1992 to restrict state House members to three, two-year full terms and Senate members to two, four-year full terms for about 14 years. Previous to 1992, there were no limits on the number of House or Senate terms served.

“There are chinks in the armor of term limits,” said Charles Ballard, a respected Michigan State University professor of economics and survey director.

Respected academics and pundits, such as Wayne State University Professor Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson, have advocated for returning term limit power to the voters for years. Term limits has led lawmakers to worry more about their next office than good government, empowered lobbyists and given leadership posts to freshman lawmakers.

The massive cuts in the current budget can be blamed on the fact that many in the state Legislatures are more worried about building a record to run for statewide office than good government.

Sarbaugh-Thompson said term limits have not accomplished anything its backers claimed it would accomplish when it was sold to Michigan voters back in 1992.

The survey also found that 82 percent of the latest survey respondents said they favored state legislative districts drawn by an independent, nonpartisan commission instead of by the party that controls the House and Senate. The commission would be charged with drawing the lines to make elections as competitive as possible and without favoring one party or the other. Republicans gerrymandered the districts so badly that even though more people voted for Democrats in the 2006 Senate races, Republicans managed to steal a 21-17 seat advantage.

“The support for an end to gerrymandering is really overwhelming, and among all groups, including Democrats and Republicans,” Ballard said.

The Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR), a nonpartisan public policy network at MSU dedicated to connecting legislators, scholars and practitioners through survey, evaluation and applied research, policy forums and political leadership briefings.


Republican Michigander said...

I don't think there's a chance in hell that term limits will be going away anytime soon. People don't like politicians, of any stripe.

Do I support getting rid of term limits? Yes I do, and I'm in the minority. Having 2 and 4 year lame ducks is not healthy. Besides that, we already had term limits called elections. If they do a bad job, send them home. Artificial term limits is lazy.

Communications guru said...

You may be right. I hope you’re not, but I fear you are. Strange, we agree on something.

Not Anonymous said...

I too was against the term limits proposal when it came out. I always believed it was the peoples responsibility to throw the dead weight out, with the exception of Governor. But once the term limits was established and put in place, I'm against reverting back.

I don't feel sorry for the politicians if term limits has made it more difficult for them to do their jobs. If they wanted an easy job, they should have gone to McDonalds and flipped hamburgers, although I doubt many of them could compete with the teenagers that are doing that job.

If the legislators jobs are so terribly hard for them, then they are just making a case for us to have a part time government.

This state is in a shambles and they don't deserve to be the second highest paid in the country.

I'm looking forward to the next election looking alot like yesterdays where nearly all Democrats were tossed on their butts. Virginia, New Jersey, and even the 19th here in Michigan all showed the Democrats where the unemployment offices are. If the Republicans continue business as usual, then they too will have the logos from shoes on their butts in their next election.

Communications guru said...

Term limits are a dismal failure that is not doing what they were supposed to do. Making a difficult job part-time makes absolutely no sense. That would simply give lobbyists more sway in Lansing and give us a Legislature that was either retired or independently wealthy.

I’m also looking forward to the election in 2010. After Tuesday there are still more Democratic governors than Republican, and the northeast part of the country is even bluer, thanks to the race in New York’s 23rd congressional district. If it’s possible, the Republican Party is even more splintered than before.

The fact is Michigan Democrats did very well in municipal elections all across Michigan on Tuesday. Mayoral and City Council candidates backed by the Michigan Democratic Party won 65 percent of their races, or 44 out of 68. Ballot questions supported by the MDP such as the Kalamazoo antidiscrimination ordinance and the Macomb County Charter passed.

I’m disappointed in the results of the 19th District, but it just means we have to work a little harder to take back the Senate. It sure proves that lots of money, negative campaign and lies go a long way. There was no way to counter the State Police HQ lie in a sound bite.

It also shows what a great campaigner Mark Schauer was. He won that Republican leaning district twice. If the Republicans continue business as usual, the country will continue on its path to recovery with Democrats in power.

Janelle Baranowski said...

I've been mulling about term limits for some time now. A reader of my blog challenged my support of term limits, and the more research and thinking I do, the more I feel that they need to go.

I'm still on the fence, mostly because it's about so much more than term limits. Campaign finance, transparency, districting, etc.

It should be noted, that term limits do not stop career politicians. Right now, when they're termed out of office, they pursue a different position.