Should term limits be longer? Shorter? According to The League of Women Voters, term limits should be eliminated.
Ohio lawmakers can currently serve up to eight consecutive years in either the House or Senate, with no lifetime limit.
Earlier this year, the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission toyed with the idea of extending term limits to 12 years, but now the political action committee “Eight is Enough” is advancing a ballot drive to enact a lifetime cap of eight years in each chamber.
Carrie Davis, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, says restricting options doesn’t make for better government.
“If a community likes their representative and they think this person is knowledgeable and does a good job, once they hit that term limit those voters no longer have the chance to re-elect that person,” she says. “So it can really deprive voters of that choice.”
Those in favor of shorter term limits argue they keep special interest groups out of politics. But Davis says those shorter terms actually increase outside influence, and lead to ineffective governing.
Davis says her experience is that tighter limits tend to bring people into office with less experience, and short-term legislators tend to develop short-term solutions.
“You don’t really have the same incentive to reach across the aisle and find a source of compromise,” she says, “and come up with long-term solutions to the big problems we have.”
Eight is Enough says it has gathered over 1,700 signatures in favor of their proposal. Attorney General Mike DeWine has until Sept. 8 to review the petition language.
Proponents want stricter term limits to stop career politicians from switching between chambers, and to bring new ideas into the state legislature. Davis says there may be better ways to accomplish that.
“Recent sessions of the legislature, these lame duck sessions, have produced an alarmingly high percentage of the legislature’s activity,” she says. “Many of the lame duck legislators tended to supply the most controversial votes. So it’s having a real impact on the quality of our government.”
One of 15 states with term limits, Ohio originally established term limits with the passage of Amendment 3 in the 1992 general election.
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