NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States Rethinking Term Limits

May 21, 2001

Some lawmakers in states with term limits are working to overturn them. They argue that the limits have handed lobbyists more power and influence over shaping laws. Without experienced leadership to guide them, freshmen legislators are forced to rely on the advice of lobbyists.

The term-limits movement gained strength in the late 1980s, when the public became fed up with career politicians. But now a counter-movement to abolish those laws is gaining adherents.

  • In at least 10 of the 19 states which have such laws, there have been proposals this year to modify or repeal them.
  • Some of those proposals, including one in Missouri, are pending -- while others seem to have been derailed, in part because of vigorous lobbying by the groups that initially promoted the laws.
  • Some term-limit laws -- including those in Massachusetts and Washington State -- have been thrown out by state courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that term limits for members of Congress would require an amendment to the Constitution.
  • Abolishing term limits would require voter approval -- except in a handful of states where legislators have gone to court to have them modified or repealed.

"Attempts to overturn the people's votes on an issue that directly affects the legislators' own power is exactly the thing that gives citizens a low regard for politicians," says Paul Jacob, the national director of the advocacy group U.S. Term Limits.

Source: Sam Howe Verhovek, "In State Legislatures, 2nd Thoughts on Term Limits," New York Times, May 21, 2001.


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