Will Georgians Get to Vote on Legislative Term Limits?

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State Representative Michael Caldwell (R – Woodstock) pre-filed legislation for the 2019 session that would allow citizens to vote for or against legislative term limits.  HB6 would limit members of the General Assembly to eight consecutive years of service by allowing four separate two-year terms.  Under the legislation, General Assembly members must take off one term before seeking re-election for another eight years. 

Most notably, the legislation allows Georgia voters to make the decision.  HB6 is a constitutional amendment that ask, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide term limits for members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives?” Therefore the decision before the General Assembly members is not whether or not they will place term limits on themselves, but rather will they give the citizens of Georgia an opportunity to weigh in on that decision.

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide term limits for members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives?

It will be interesting to see if this bill even makes it to a committee hearing.  Keeping the bill out of committee prevents citizens from giving input on the matter and prevents the legislators from having to put their position on the record. There are legislators who will fight tooth and nail to ensure that they can stay in office for life.  Some long time legislators feel they still have work to do and things to contribute, for many it’s the power of the position, for other’s it’s the attention, then there are those who do not think anyone in their district could do a better job, and the worst of them are using their time in office as their retirement plan.  

There are benefits to the institutional knowledge that the long-time serving legislators bring upon their return year, after year, after year.  We all hope that people who have served for more than a decade have mastered procedure, historical knowledge, and strategy.  Many of the most partisan and divisive strategy ideas are not innovative.  They are simply recycled political tricks that continue to be passed down to the next generation of leaders from those who served during the two previous decades.   

When asked, long-time legislators will tell you that there are term limits every two years when the people go to the polls to vote.  However, the power (or problem) of incumbency is that name recognition alone is enough to keep a stale legislator in office.  Everyday Georgians are too busy working to pay the taxes these legislators spend annually to pay attention to their attendance or voting record. 

con·flict of in·ter·est (noun)
a situation in which a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.

Even if you are not in support of term limits it’s hard to imagine why anyone, other than the legislators themselves, would not be in favor of taking the temperature of the people on this issue.  It is the definition of conflict of interest for the legislators to decide whether or not our legislators’ time in office should be limited.  Rep. Caldwell’s legislation addresses that in the most succinct and patriotic way. 

In fact, great companion legislation could require that all matters related to legislators pay, term limits, benefits, and ethics rules always go before the people of Georgia to decide.  If voters are smart enough to determine if they want alcohol sales on Sundays then they should be able to determine how long they want their legislators to be fermented. 

Since the chance of voters getting an opportunity to weigh in on an official ballot is low, why don’t we do it here … Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide term limits for members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives?  Yes or No  Who should make this decision – the voters or the elected officials?

Check out HB6 here:
http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20192020/179360.pdf
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georgiasunflowerxdogWill DurantDave BearseBenevolus Recent comment authors
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Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

I’m opposed to term limits for state legislators. Legislation however is needed with respect to filling vacancies. It’s been common practice that judges resign and appointments are in essence an award of the job. I respect and accept that to a degree. The practice of resigning so the Governor can make an appointment now seems as if it’s being extended to the PSC. I disapprove, not that my peon opinion much matters. Nip this in the bud. Legislation should require PSC posts should be left vacant or appointees be ineligible to run at the end of their appointment term. At… Read more »

chefdavid
chefdavid

I agree

bethebalance
bethebalance

I’m a Yes for this. If only legislators had the courage to vote on it themselves.
I’m curious, though, how the 8-yr. limit was settled upon….
Eight years is long enough to gain and exercise some institutional knowledge, but it’s also short enough to prevent one person from voting on more than one major redistricting…

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Changes to redistricting are needed with or without term limits. A process that eliminates partisanship or the seeking of partisan advantage is impossible, but a much less partisan and incumbent-based process can be implemented that will create districts based on established guidelines.

Such districts would tend to be more competitive, a big plus, though the country is generally increasing segregated geographically so that may be relatively less benefit.

chamblee54
chamblee54

Voters have the power to enact term limits in every election.

bethebalance
bethebalance

Voters have all the power in theory, but not in practice, because there are other powerful forces in play. E.g., the power of incumbency often limits the choices given to voters, particularly in most districts where the partisan advantage is clear. It’s great that voters can choose between a Hershey bar and a Reese’s, but what if you want a carrot? Limited choice means limited power. And by eliminating the power of incumbency. you increase the odds of diverse choices. Also, there is research that shows that term limits make for more diverse policy- because in their last term of… Read more »

Raleigh
Raleigh

I disagree. Voters have the power and should have the only power to limit terms for those in office. Mandated term limits is feel good legislation. If you want to really do something about perceived incumbent advantage, open up ballot access. Another party or an independent should be able to throw their name in the ring without having to go through the draconian hoops which are in place to get on the ballot. Then you’ll have more diverse choices. The choices we have now isn’t really a Hershey bar and a Reese’s, but more like Left and Right Twix If… Read more »

bethebalance
bethebalance

Funny about the left and right Twix.
But whether a law is passed directly by legislators or by referendum, it would be exactly that– a result of voters’ power. It would just be a way to make certain decisions and standards apply across the board. Voters should have the power to determine the process they like.
My guess is a referendum on this would pass fairly easily because voters want greater leverage to their power.
Ballot access is an issue that also could also be addressed, but it goes against the interest of both parties, so….

Benevolus
Benevolus

How about an exemption; For example, if a candidate got 75 or maybe 80% of the vote in the previous election, they don’t get term limited out?
I don’t want to get stuck with some goober millionaire who knows nothing but could win anyway just because my Rep had to move on.

Otherwise, I agree with Dave about addressing that win-then-resign scam.

Gregs
Gregs

I see one problem with this. I live in Gwinnett where for the preceding 20 years most legislators had no opposition. The system and the demographics were such that only Republicans could win a political office. The same in true in reverse in Fulton county. So you’d have the same effect.

Gregs
Gregs

I don’t know what would be accomplished by limiting terms. Bad legislators and good ones would go out with the wash. Citizens need to be more involved in the process for democracy to work and they don’t get a pass.

We always get the government we deserve!

bethebalance
bethebalance

A referendum would exactly allow more citizen input into the voting process itself, and if it passed, would signal that voters are not happy with the process, and want the process to favor them more. (As opposed to favoring political parties or the power of incumbency.) It seems you and Benev are concerned abt what happens to the “good” legislators, but I imagine that’s why the bill has the option for re-election after a 2-yr. hiatus. Also, just because someone’s “good” doesn’t mean they should stay forever. Others could be just as good or greater. And over time, as choices… Read more »

Gregs
Gregs

I just don’t know what problem we would solve with this new process. We would have change but its change for the sake of change, no guarantee that what you would get is any better or worst that the status quo.

bethebalance
bethebalance

No guarantee on anything in life. Just possible rewards vs. risks. With this bill, I just think the equation favors the change.
But there are identifiable problems: Stagnant policies, stagnant voter options.

Benevolus
Benevolus

I am uncomfortable with anything that restricts choices. I get it that term limits may actually give more choices, but it restricts them at the same time.
Where is the middle ground on this?

I agree with Raleigh (alert the authorities), ballot access is key no matter how you structure the rest. Then Ranked Choice Voting. These would open things up quite a bit.

bethebalance
bethebalance

Restrictions on choices with term limits: You won’t be able to vote for the same person 5 consecutive election cycles, but no cap on the lifetime opportunity to vote for the person.
Restrictions without term limits: Unknown, ranging from zero to widespread statewide suppression of new candidates and ideas, and appurtenant legislative impacts.

My argument: Qualified term limits (as with this bill) is the middle ground.

Will Durant
Will Durant

I am not in favor of artificial term limits. I would like two changes made that could have an effect however. The first would be a nonpartisan primary or semi-final if you will and the second would be eliminating the “I” from the ballots. Partisan primaries paid for by the taxpayers shouldn’t even be legal but making them nonpartisan would at least come close to a guarantee that an office holder gets “primaried”. Also any voters not savvy enough to know who the incumbent may be shouldn’t get a cheat. Do I think that incumbents would voluntarily give us a… Read more »

xdog
xdog

I’d drop the incumbency label, party labels, and alphabetized candidate listings, and make it harder to vote a straight-ticket.

I know none of that will happen, and if it did it would merely increase party instruction and early voting, but it would make me feel better.

georgiasunflower
georgiasunflower

If you truly believe Voters have the ability to create Term Limits every 2 years then give them the chance to vote on this.