82.1 F
San Fernando
Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Term Limits: Is it Time to Give More Time?

Recently, one of the most written about political issues is that of term limits. Those who favor an increase in the number of terms argue that we have lost some very talented and effective elected officials because of these limits, that it is difficult to get new high quality candidates who are willing to leave their businesses or professions for a limited time in office and that it takes a significant amount of time, perhaps the first two or more years of a successful candidate’s first term in office to learn the policies, procedures and processes necessary to develop and introduce effective legislation (the “learning curve”) and to garner the appropriate number of votes for passage. An example of this learning curve is evident in the difficulty encountered by Governor Schwarzenegger in gaining the support of the legislature during the earlier portion of his term. His lack of success in getting legislation he wanted was substantially due to his unfamiliarity with the appropriate methods of dealing with the legislature. After gaining experience and receiving a few lumps, he was able to get the 2006/2007 State Budget of $131 billion approved in record time thus achieving the first on-time budget in six years. In addition to the time it takes to learn the ropes, it is well known that during the last two years of a legislator’s or constitutional officer’s term in office a significant amount of time is devoted to campaigning for either re-election, or, because of being termed-out, seeking a new office. Based on the aforementioned information, it is reasonable to conclude that two terms in office actually provide very little time for accomplishments. Further, if one is a member of the California Assembly, each term is only two years in length (with a three-term limit), therefore the first term is spent primarily learning and campaigning with little chance to get any actual work done and a substantial part of the third term is spent campaigning. It appears that the second term is the only term where there is a possibility of significant accomplishment. If a business owner had to put up with this much diversion in his/her work schedule, it is doubtful whether the business would continue in existence. Those who oppose an increase in the number of terms argue that ineffective officeholders will be able to skate longer and that we will miss opportunities to obtain better talent. They also argue that longer term limits will attract more candidates who are primarily seeking an easy way to receive a relatively sizeable salary, a staff, a new vehicle and other perks rather than achievement-oriented candidates. After all, elected positions, unlike high-level positions in the private sector, do not require any knowledge or experience. Answer in elections? I have read numerous recent articles on the topic of term limits but have not seen one that mentions why those who drafted the United States Constitution didn’t provide for term limits. It’s not that they didn’t consider the subject. The reason that they didn’t provide for term limits is their belief that frequent elections were the best form of term limits. If you think about it, term limits actually interfere with the democratic process. They impinge upon the rights of the voters to choose their representatives. If we subscribe to the reasoning used by those who drafted our federal Constitution we don’t need term limits at all. We can merely get rid of the bad or ineffective officeholders at election time. Or, if we don’t want to wait until election time, we can organize a re-call. Why not do this? What is wrong with the premise? I submit that at the time the U.S. Constitution was drafted, the premise was valid. I also submit that the premise is no longer valid. Modern politics We need term limits because there are forces today that strongly influence the popular vote that were not present when the Constitution was adopted. I’m speaking of the tremendous influence of the very wealthy special interest groups coupled with the unfortunate consistently low voter turn-out at election time. For example, we know that the unions strongly encourage their members to “walk the precincts” gathering votes for union supported candidates and that a tremendous amount of money is spent by such unions to get the word out to their members and to influence the public at large. I believe it is safe to say that a significant number of the voters who actually do go to the polls are either union members or have been influenced by substantial media coverage in support of the union-favored candidates. Another reason why term limits are needed today is the gerrymandering that exists under the current method of drawing districts. Evidence of the connection between term limits and current district drawing was reported in the California section of the “Los Angeles Times,” July 15, 2006 edition in an article by Times Staff Writer Peter Nicholas. The article stated that Gov. Schwarzenegger suggested that the legislature surrender the power to draw voting districts in return for the possibility of staying in their jobs longer. In other words, the legislature should consider having the drawing of legislative districts performed by an independent panel of Masters (retired judges) instead of the parties themselves in exchange for the Governor’s support on increased term limits. Regardless of whether current term limits are adequate or not, it appears clear that changes are in the making and I, for one, believe it’s time. Attempts are being made at different levels of politics. Recent entries into the race include the Los Angeles City Council and the Orange County Supervisors.

Featured Articles

Related Articles