Elected officials who serve statewide office (governor, lieutenant governor, et. al.) are subject to term limits.
Should members of the state senate and house of representatives be subject to the same limits?
I'd go further. I'd like to term limits for our Congress as well. Maybe two terms max for a Senator (12 years) and 5-6 two year terms for the House. This should not be a lifetime job and frankly, given the mess we continue to experience over the years, their "expertise" is dubious from being there as long as they have. This would also shake up the entire lobby industry. We have term limits for our President, and Congress should have the same.
I'd also force them to have the same health care options the rest of us have and the same retirement system--meaning they need to be paying social security. The playing field needs to be equalized and the era of a congressional aristocracy should come to an end.
There are some valid reasons to favor term limits for our legislators, but I do not believe it would be in our best interests as a country or a state to do so. Our votes are the strongest term limits we have. You may ask why don't we vote out the arrogant legislators who are part of the system? We keep them precisely because they are part of the system, which allows them to get things done, or bring money or projects into the state. There is also a great deal to be said for experience that comes with holding a seat in Congress or even in our own legislature. On the federal level, regular newcomers would mean the loss of a wealth of knowledge about foreign affairs, the military, and the economy. In Rhode Island, knowing the issues, business leaders and important organizations is important to making progress, although we as citizens need to take more interest in preventing conflicts of interest, promoting separation of powers, and generally watching the cookie jar.
The system is not perfect and it seems to become more flawed the more local it gets, but term limits don't hold the answer. How many people have the time or the inclination to run for office or serve. There is a reason our legislature is full of plaintiff's attorneys and teachers. The rest of us don't have the time to spend at the State House, much less the time to study the issues and various bills sufficiently to perform the job properly. I am not in favor of reinventing the wheel over and over again.
I do not agree with what has or hasn't been done on the federal level to protect our economy in the past ten years or so, but I don't think it was the result of legislators being in place for too long. We are in this economic mess because of well-meaning policy makers who believed deregulation and credit were good things because the economy was growing. They were wrong. We were wrong. There is no proof that newer, less experienced legislators would have done anything differently because, don't forget, everyone was happy when the economy was booming, even if it was just a lot of hot air.
Term limits would be one protection against the rampant corruption we have at all levels of government. Professional pols of both parties care more about staying in office and thereby amassing wealth and power than they do in doing what's best for their constituents. Generally the longer they stay in office the more they have been bought and paid for by special interests, who feed them money to run for office and to vote their way, With term limits—four years max for every office, staggered so not every pol is new at the same time—what we'd lose in "expertise" we'd gain in incentive to be the people's business, not their own.
The problem with term limits is that they completely take away the democratic principle of accountability. If a politician is term-limited, why should they bother paying attention to their constituents? They will much more likely do everything that some well-paid industry lobbyist wants them to do, especially if there is a revolving door or benefits awaiting them at the end of their term. If we want to hold our politicians accountable, then we need to get active and start organizing our neighbors - not institute term limits. What happens when you have a really responsible politician that is term-limited with no one with the same courage willing to succeed him or her? I really think that term limits are anti-democratic in the long run and lead eventually to political burn out.
Tuesday, July 19
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