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: