We clearly have become a throw-away society. We don’t treasure and continue to use what is working and meets our needs. We don’t fix things even when they could have longer-term utility. We use them and pitch them.
Last week, it dawned on me that this is exactly what we have done with the state legislature under the dictates of “term limits.” We didn’t fix concerns we had with the legislature. We enacted policy that discards our Senators and Representatives after short stays in the legislature (three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate).
Our team of SEMCOG staff and local government officials was in Lansing last week to work the capitol. We had a diverse range of issues to discuss with our legislators, ranging from replacement revenue for the personal property tax, manufactured housing, creation of a regional transportation authority, and long-term funding for transportation. Over the course of the day, we visited over a dozen state legislators.
What we found with the vast majority of State Senators and Representatives with whom we spoke were dedicated public servants, knowledgeable about the issues we raised, and eager to make a positive difference for the people of Michigan. To think that all of them will be kicked out in a few months or, at best, a couple more terms, saddened me.
Surely, there are rascals in the legislature. And, there are legislators who are ideologically driven on both left and right extremes. For many in this group, the decisions are simple…and often wrong. Rather than reward the “effective” legislators with longer terms or educating those who can improve, our approach under term limits is to throw them all away.
Term limits are bad. They force removal of our very best legislators when they are reaching their prime and can be most effective. Yes, we get rid of the underperforming legislators, but at a great cost…throwing out the very best at the same time.
We should repeal term limits. If that is unacceptable, we should, at least, extend the length of the terms. My preference is to let democracy work. We voters have the power to remove those who we don’t like. We should also have the power to keep those who are doing their job and doing it well.
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