Two Lansing men, prominent in the medical field, are launching an effort to ease or eliminate term limits, saying nobody really likes the caps on how long state politicians hold office. Although Michigan voters approved term limits by adopting a constitutional amendment via a 1992 referendum, many people that were initially supportive of the limits have come to regret them.
Supporters of the amendment say term limits inject new blood and fresh ideas into an incumbent-filled, out of touch state legislature. On the other hand, however, term limits also ensure inexperience. Rash decisions by often unqualified state legislators on complicated issues, for example, are one drawback that has thus far accompanied term limits.
Michigan”s limits are amongst the strictest in the nation. State House members are limited to three two-year terms, state senators to two four-year terms. These limits cover an individual”s lifetime, meaning certain elected officials can never hold office again. The brevity of the terms guarantees that before anyone has developed a real degree of expertise, they are out of the process. This term alone, Michigan”s House has passed only one measure. The House has 64 freshman members.
In addition to imposing inexperience and excluding qualified representatives, these term limits are undemocratic. Voters should be allowed to vote for a state legislature that they have confidence in, and not be forced to vote out experienced individuals simply because their time is up. Though the referendum passed in 1992 by a hefty 59 percent, critics are calling for another vote to add a constitutional amendment that would reverse its predecessor.
About 50 people have accepted invitations for the March 14 and March 29 dinners in Lansing where the problems with term limits and possible solutions will be discussed. The concerns about term limits have not fallen on party lines Republicans, Democrats, independents, business leaders, union leaders and lobbyists are among those people attending the dinners.
Seven other states with term limits have considered measures to repeal such limits, but have yet to be successful. The dinners in Lansing are a positive step towards eliminating these irresponsible and undemocratic limitations.