Thursday, September 14, 2006

Term Limits: A quick and easy way to F-up state government even more

With the possible exception of Measure 48,TABOR spending trap, the most corrosive proposal to state government has to be Term Limits.

When supporters talk about Term Limits, it sounds so good:

Career politicians cannot be trusted with unlimited power! Once allowed to continue to hold office, most of them did, in violation of the will of the People. By now, 1/3 of our state lawmakers are malingerers who rely on a legal technicality to serve beyond the limits set by 1 million Oregonian voters.

It took 400,000 Oregonians' signatures to allow voters to choose term limits - again. Measure 45 complies with the Court ruling. If enacted into law, Oregonians will deter these term-limits violators and begin to revive a citizen-legislature in Salem. Predictably, legislative leaders - whose desire for power knows no limits - have recruited lobbyists to "front" a $$ multi-million campaign to oppose to Measure 45.

I'm guessing the above was written by Paul Farago. Farago is the Oregon chapter President of the Howard Rich Stooge Club.

Farago is hoping we'll see the Oregon legislature as a bunch of knuckle dragging, hair ball chewing troglodytes who scratch their asses when their scalp itches. In Farago's Fantasy Island, the only way to climb the ladder from this Dante's Inferno is to turn the whole lot out after an arbitrary time table, allowing a fresh set of nontrogs to swoop in and inevitably morph just in time to turn them out as well.

If it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. Term Limits are no panacea. Just the opposite in fact. Other states have found themselves jumping from the frying pan into the fire after enacting this law.

The state with the longest experience with this is Colorado where researchers have found a weakened, less accountable legislature:

But a four-year national study shows that term limits didn't reduce the number of politicians who were worried more about their next career move than they were about the folks back home - it increased their numbers, said Jennie Drage Bowser, who headed the review.

"It's not the populists' dream of the regular citizen serving for eight years and then going back home and taking the job they had before," she said.

In Colorado, Drage Bowser said, the turnover rate from 2003 to 2004 was only 4 percent higher in the House and 6 percent higher in the Senate than in 1993 to 1994.

The study was conducted jointly among the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation. Straayer also contributed to the review.

The groups did case studies in nine states - six with term limits, including Colorado, and three without - to reach their conclusions.

They also surveyed the nation's 7,500 state elected officials and compared the answers with a 1995 survey that predated term limits, Drage Bowser said.

"There's an enormous change in leadership, and it's harder for leaders to lead. Committees function in more chaos than they used to. There's less civility in the legislature than there used to be," she said.

Its tough to imagine that legislative politics in Oregon could become less civil, given the Douchebag of Double Dealing Dirty politics having his hand in so many races. But with term limits, this kind of ugliness carries over into the legislative session and erodes the process further.

The research cites either consistent or increased political incivility, leadership turnovers causing uncertainty and chaos in the legislative process, a power shift toward the executive branch and legislators eager to use their seat as a stepping stone to higher office rather than being the "citizen legislator" that term limits supporters fantasize about.

What I find most objectionable about Measure 45/Term Limits is that it takes away my choices as a voter. As someone who carefully studies issues and candidates, I'm being robbed by the likes of Paul Farago because he doesn't trust me to make my own decisions. Not only is that insulting, its wrong.