Term limits are needed

Published 6:58 am Wednesday, August 1, 2018

By Lyle Larson

Think of a current elected official who represents the polar opposite of your political beliefs. Now, imagine that person occupying the Texas governor’s office for decades.

That exercise can be just that, or it could be a reality if the Legislature fails to enact term limits on state officeholders. As we have observed in the past, allowing the same individual to serve as governor creates a consolidation of power by virtue of state agency board and commission appointments that has proven to be problematic.

Term limits can bring new blood and fresh ideas into the legislative process. In addition to reducing the powers of special interests over our elected officials, term limits can ensure more judicious lawmaking. The best examples of public servants are our Founding Fathers. These men were farmers and shopkeepers who migrated to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., crafted the first laws of our nation, then promptly returned home. If legislators know they will be forced to return home to live under the laws they pass, they will arguably be much less likely to advocate for repressive and unreasonable laws.

Today, 38 states have some form of term limits for statewide elected officials. 36 of these states have term limits on the governor. 25 states have term limits for the lieutenant governor, and 24 on other state officials. 15 states also have legislative term limits.

In previous legislative sessions, we have filed legislation that would institute term limits for elected officials serving at the state level. The bill called for term limits of 12 years total for statewide officeholders (three 4-year terms for governor, lieutenant governor, and other statewide elected officials and two 6-year terms for railroad commissioners), a maximum of six 2-year terms for Texas House members, and a maximum of three 4-year terms for a Texas Senate member, totaling 12 years for each.

Unfortunately, in 2013, our legislation was voted down on the House floor, primarily by the group of far-right House members currently known as the “Freedom Caucus.” The same group who boasts about draining the swamp and minimizing government’s role in our lives wants to hold on to political power into perpetuity. It is clear that the special interests on the far-left and far-right want to amortize their investment in their leadership over long periods of time. Members of the party of denial and do-nothing can start packing their bags if folks in Texas are able to vote on term limits in 2019.

In 2018, the Legislature passed a resolution calling for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution. This legislation proposes amendments that would enact term limits for federal elected officials, impose spending limits on the federal government, and limit its power.

If term limits are appropriate for elected officials at the federal level, and have been for the United States President since the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, aren’t they equally needed for elected officials at the state level?

Regardless of the party with which we affiliate, we will all reach the point that we will be glad we took the initiative to institute term limits. It’s time to allow Texas voters to decide whether they want term limits for our governor and other state elected officials.