The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is currently advocating for an amendment to the Michigan Constitution, which would change term limits for state legislators. The specifics of the plan for revision of the 1992 state law remain ambiguous, but those behind it seek to provide for more effectiveness and representation of members of the state Congress.

According to The Detroit News, in 2019, roughly 70 percent of state senators and over 20 percent of state representatives’ terms will expire, leaving an abundance of seats open for re-election. This also invites the possibility that inexperienced representatives will be given the responsibility of dealing with intricate matters of the previous administration.

The amendment, if accepted for reform, would be placed on the 2018 voter ballot. On Sept. 27, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce voted to work with staff in contacting outside organizations and individuals in order to gauge potential support of the amendment.

Rich Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, issued a statement explaining the vote and describing how the reform, though still under discussion, might improve internal workings of the legislature.

“This government reform effort could focus on revising term limits and other changes to improve the effectiveness, accountability and transparency of the state legislature. The specifics of this government accountability proposal remain to be determined. Chamber staff will report back to the Board of Directors in January 2018,” he wrote.

While 38 state senators currently represent Michigan, because of rigid term limits, 26 will not have the opportunity for re-election in 2018. Within Michigan’s 110 House seats, 24 will be available for change in candidacy, allowing for a 21.8 percent turnover rate — the second highest among all state Houses.

Specifically, 19 Republicans and seven Democrats will be forced to vacate their seats in the state Senate, while 13 Democrats and 11 Republicans will do the same in the state House.

While term limits do face opposition among some policy makers, Patrick Anderson, author of the 1992 term limits amendment, argued that term limits provide generational representation and allow frequent waves of new legislators to address the needs of a changing society. He also stated “a vast majority of citizens are not interested in fixing a portion of the state constitution that is not broken.” 

“The basic message citizens have given their government for 200 years now has been to have a Legislature full of people who represent citizens,” Anderson told The Detroit News. “To do that effectively, you want to make sure that those legislators are periodically drawn from the citizenry, and term limits ensures that.”

At the heart of the debate is the controversy as to whether term limits encourage lawmakers to vote in agreement with desires of their constituents or if their votes face more persuasion from special interest groups within the legislature. 

Engineering sophomore Lincoln Merrill, publicity chair for the University of Michigan’s College Republicans, stated he feels term limits are beneficial and they should not change in the state of Michigan.

“I think that term limits should be instituted in every state legislature and every state and in the national legislature,” he said. “You’ve seen the backlash against the establishment and the career-sort of politicians that’s happened in the past year, and it just goes to show a lot of the people who are in office nationally for decades and decades at a time, this doesn’t go for all of them, but there’s a possibility that they’re just in it for the job and the money and power, and they don’t necessarily have your good in mind. With regards to Michigan in general, I don’t think they should change it at all … I think it’s a good amount of time where you can get something done, (and) you can move on after that.”

College Democrats did not respond for a comment.

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