Term Limits

Term Limits in this Constitutional Amendment Proposal

There are many different forms of term limits, in terms of those enacted and operating in various states, and other variations which still exist as untried concepts. The form of term limits proposed in the Constitutional amendment proposed here at OccupyThisHope.org are similar in some ways to some of the states’ experiments. However, one factor which needs to be understood immediately in terms of term limits for the U.S. Congress is that none have ever been enacted. Some variations have been proposed, but none have been passed as a Constitutional amendment. It is essential to view the variation of term limits proposed here from two unique perspectives: First, this proposal for term limits is coupled with a Constitutional prohibition against individual, corporate, or organizational campaign contributions. Second, this variation of term limits proposed here is designed and intended to increase the amount of Congressional experience acquired by our citizenry, and improve and increase the quality of discussion and the exchange of ideas among our total population, hoping that with the elimination of both financial incentives coupled with campaigns, and the end of the perpetuation of our political aristocracy, the average citizen will be both able to contribute their service in Congress or, at least perceive that there is value in discussing our national needs with the elimination of monetary incentives and a greater likelihood that those serving in Congress are there primarily to listen to and serve the People, rather than increasing their net worth by many millions of dollars as so many have done under our current system.

State Term Limits in the Courts

The link above provides a good overview of how the courts, both state and federal, have ruled on various forms of term limits for various offices in state governments.

The Term Limited States

This link above provides three tables with data current as of 2009. The first table lists the current states which have term limits, the year enacted, the limit of years served for each branch of the state legislature, and the percentage of the vote enacting the legislation.

This link also provides information differentiating the type of limits: consecutive vs. lifetime limits, and a list of states which have enacted consecutive or lifetime. The page also lists which states have repealed their term limit legislation, and whether it was repealed by court decisions or by the legislature.

Summary and Citations of State Term Limit Laws

This link above provides brief descriptions of the variations of term limits which have been enacted, including those which have been repealed or overturned. Links are also provided for more detailed versions of the actual legislation passed for each of the 15 states.

One of the common issues raised by many of the courts which have overruled various term limit laws is the issue of constitutionality, and the degree to which terms and qualifications of office can only be determined by the various state constitutions.

Term Limits and the Voters’ Rights and Representatives Innovative Proposal

Virtually all states which have enacted term limits, whether their legislation ultimately stood the test of the courts, have either enacted a version which sets consecutive limits, or lifetime limits. States which have enacted consecutive limits have set those limits for office in the specific branches of the legislature, with states varying on the number of years limited, and whether those limits in years are consecutive or lifetime.

The proposal offered here is innovative for the U.S. Congress because term limits have never been proposed and ratified for Congress, and because the term limit is the least number of years, at 6, in comparison to the state’s variations. However, Arkansas, California, and Michigan, which limit years served in the house to 6 also make that limit alifetime limit, with each of those states including a lifetime limit for their state senate at 8 years.

Coupled with a 6 year consecutive limit and no lifetime limit, the VRRA proposal is designed to encourage more qualified people to serve, while at the same time making use of their experience in allowing them to potentially return to Congress after waiting out for 2 years.

The intention of this form of term limits is to both increase the number of people with experience serving in Congress and those with experience, but not currently candidates, able to contribute their experience with constructive and creative opinions about various issues and societal needs shared in the various forms of media. Without extensive financial obligations to campaign finance contributors, we might improve both the quality and accuracy of public discourse, and stimulate a greater interest in more citizens listening to this qualitative change in discussions, discussions which may be more likely to avoid falsification of issues and demonizing of opponents, past, present, and future.

Additional information and publications about the various experiences and evaluations of state term limits is available at the National Conference of State Legislatures Joint Project on Term Limits.

There are other concerns with how our Congress can function under this system with term limits, and additional material will be added to this page soon.

Barry McKenna
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Term Limits by Barry McKenna is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Released September 26, 6:57 PM EDT