Saturday, November 29, 2008

Illinois rep calls for gubernatorial term limits

Illinois State Rep. Mike Boland gets it.

In November, Rep. Boland (D-Moline) announced his plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to limit the term of the Illinois governor to two 4-year terms and establish a recall process. Illinois would be the 38th state with gubernatorial term limits.

“Incumbent governors have many political advantages, from patronage to big money,” Boland said in a press release. “If we open up the gubernatorial position at least once every decade, we will generate competition and empower voters.”

Rep. Boland toured the state in November to announce and pitch his proposal, which he says would address Illinois' culture of political corruption. He expects public support and official resistance.

"This is going to be resisted by political establishments," he said. "People in power like things the way they are and that way hasn't been working for the tax payers."

This would be a big break for term limits in a state without a term limits tradition at the state or local level. Nine of the largest 10 cities in America have term limits, with Chicago being the exception.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Filipinos frown on term limits repeal

The dateline for this one is Manila, but it could be Caracas or even New York City. It is a universal and eternal fact of life that citizens love terms limits and incumbent politicians hate them.

The latest datum is a new poll from the Philippines, where a move is afoot to lengthen or repeal term limits for the president, vice president and the legislature as part of a package of constitutional changes. Outside the capitol building, only 15 percent of the population approve of weakening term limits, according to a new Social Weather Stations poll. A full 64 percent oppose it.

Currently, the constitution mandates term limits at nearly all levels. For a survey of international term limits, see LINKS in the left-hand column on this blog.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sen. Washington planning Carson City coup

One of the ironies of term limits politics is that the opposition to term limits more often than not prove the need for term limits. Specifically, the opposition clumsily demonstrate that the interests of the officeholder and of the citizenry diverge widely over time, with the career politicians identifying so closely with the interests of the political class they no longer even recognize the interests of the people.

Case in point: In Nevada, where courts recently rebuffed a politician-led attack on the states 12-year legislative term limit, the soon-to-be term limited Sen. Maurice Washington (R-Sparks) is calling for a new constitutional amendment to repeal the limit. Sen. Washington, publically at least, made the case for repeal pointing to his reverence for 'the vote.'

But considering that term limits were enacted by a vote of 70 percent in 1994 and then reaffirmed by Nevadans in a second vote as required by Nevada law, and that term limits were enacted or reaffirmed everywhere across the nation they were voted on on Nov. 4, it is glaringly apparent the only vote he really reveres are votes for him and his fellow incumbents.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mayor Bloomberg's popularity dives

A new poll shows that Michael Bloomberg's popularity has dropped nine percent due primarily to the New York City mayor's self-interested tinkering with term limits.

Claiming that his leadership is indispensible to lead New York City through the current financial crisis (there being so few financially savvy people in New York City, I suppose), Bloomberg prodded his city council on Oct. 23 to lengthen his -- and the council's -- term limit from two to three terms. This was after two popular referenda to enact then affirm them.

As a result, Bloomberg's approval rating has dropped to its lowest point in three years. A new Marist poll shows 59 percent of voters think he is doing an excellent or good job, down from 68 percent a month ago. It's the first time his popularity has fallen below 60 percent since August 2005.

This is still high, but next he has to answer for his arrogance throughout a electoral campaign amidst a difficult economic environment in which he is raising taxes substantially. Bloomberg's numbers will come tumbling down and it was term limits that pushed him off the top of the hill.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Allan Carl "Al" Schmid, 1929-2008

The term limits movement lost a pioneer upon the death of Allan Carl "Al" Schmid Nov. 16 in his home in Saginaw, MI.

From his obit, we are reminded that Schmid was a principal architect of modern legislative term limits in America, having proposed a term limits proposal “A Sunset Law for Legislators” as early as 1980. He was a co-author of two major amendments to the Michigan Constitution: the 1992 Term Limits Amendment and the 1978 Headlee Tax Limitation Amendment.

Schmid requested the hymn “God Bless America” be sung at a brief memorial service, which will be held for family, friends, colleagues, and well wishers at the Peace Lutheran Church, 3427 Adams Avenue at Mackinaw, Saginaw, MI 48602 next Tuesday, November 25 at 1:00 P.M. It was his wish, and his family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, well wishers make donations in his honor to the U.S. Term Limits Foundation 9900 Main St. Suite 303, Fairfax, VA 22031 or, in the alternative, to the American Diabetes Association Foundation, P.O. Box 11454, Alexandria, VA 22312.

Thank you, Al, for all your hard work for individual freedom and limited government.

Who says crime doesn't pay?

In spite of the felony conviction and electoral defeat of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), the Republican of longest tenure ever in the U.S. Senate, the 40-year veteran is nonetheless eligible for a $122,000 annual pension, complete with cost-of-living adjustments.

Remember Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL), the 35-year House veteran and former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who was convicted in the House Post Office scandal in 1994? He still takes home $126,000 a year.

Who knows what lurks in the hearts of evil men? But when you hear these cases you have to suspect that tenure and lack of competitive elections play a role in the downfall of such once-respected national leaders. Certainly they were not sent to the Senate so many decades ago with the arrogance, sense of entitlement and opportunity that led to their ultimate self-destruction.

After the inconveniences following their respective convictions, both gentlemen are able to ponder such questions for the rest of their lives in leisure -- on our dime.

The more things change...

The Democrats decisively won this month's elections promising change and Republican leaders are promising to change their ways as a result. Don't hold your breath.

Yesterday, the Senate Republican Caucus met and easily voted down a series of rule changes proposed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) that would have included imposing term limits on GOP leaders (defeated 36-5) and also the party's seats on the powerful Appropriations Committee (defeated 36-4). Then, the Senators reappointed roughly the same group of leaders that presided pre-Nov. 4. In other words, nothing changed and the system continues to be rigged against it.

Sen. DeMint told The Hill that term limits would "reduce the concentration of power and get more members involved." Yes, he's right, that is what term limits do. Term limits open up seats and permit greater access, share power and hands-on knowledge with a wider group of people, and bring a wider range of ideas and experience to governmental bodies.

DeMint also noted that "Change is hard, and I didn't expect to win." Unfortunately, he was right in this case too.

But don't worry. Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) assures us that changes in the rules or the leadership aren't necessary and, in fact, that the changes were hardly discussed by the caucus. The Republicans lost due to "circumstances out of our control," he said.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ron Paul: "I support term limits"

You normally wouldn’t expect a 10-term Congressman to be a big term limits supporter but, as this year’s primary campaign made clear, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) isn’t a typical Congressman.

I ran into the Congressman on the campaign trail in Fort Lauderdale last year where we chatted briefly about the prospects for Congressional term limits. Yes, he’s still on board, he assured me. He also inquired about Paul Jacob, the former executive director of U.S. Term Limits.

Rep. Paul most recently reiterated his support for term limits publically in his Dec. 23, 2007, appearance on Meet the Press, where interviewer Tim Russert grilled the Congressman for the alleged contradiction between his tenure and his support for limits on tenure.

"I support term limits," Rep. Paul told Russert. But Rep. Paul pointed out that he does not and has never supported the idea of self-limiting, but only a term limit requirement on the entire Congress.

“Matter of fact, some of the best people that I worked with, who were the most principled, came in on voluntary term limits,” said Paul. “So some of the good people left.” To get the institutional benefits of term limits, it has to be applied to the whole body.

So is this just political double-speak? Not in Rep. Paul’s case. In his first stint in Congress (1976-1984), well before the term limits explosion of the early 1990s, he was the first representative in modern history to submit a term limits bill for Congress. He voted for all the term limits bills during the Contract with America era and continues to publically support the idea.

He says term limits are a first step, but insists that we must go further.

“To restrict and reduce the power of incumbency, we should address the sweeping powers that the federal government possesses,” he wrote in a pro-term limits press release some years back. He also called for the abolition of the lucrative Congressional pension plan which he does not participate in.

To sign the petition calling for Congressional term limits, see:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Algeria inspired by NYC's example

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria took a page out of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s playbook and pushed a compliant parliament to approve abolishing term limits, permitting the leader to run for a third term. It was approved today 500-21.

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg had his city council eliminate his term limits in October, nullifying popular voter referenda creating and affirming the limits in 1993 and 1996.

The Associated Press notes that in Algeria, just as in New York City, critics complained that the decision should have been made by a referendum, not a vote of the parliament. Further, “Some observers said a huge recent salary increase for lawmakers helped smooth passage of the elimination of the two-term limit.”

Sadi, the head of the opposition RCD secular party, also criticized the procedure of the vote. He objected to the fact that the vote was held by raised hands instead of by secret ballot, which prevented legislators from "exerting their free choice on this issue.”

Predictably, Bouteflika called the vote “historic” and said it would “enshrine … solid and durable institutions.” Yes, notably the Bouteflika administration.

Just as in New York, Bouteflika and his legislature pointed to a "national emergency" as the imperative to scrap term limits. He claims says that consistency in rule is important and can help boost democracy in the Africa nation.

"As with many other potentates elsewhere in the world," retired Algerian general Rachid Benyelles told Reuters, politely declining to mention Mayor Bloomberg by name, "he has always wanted to be a president for life."

WSJ: Nov. 4 'loudest referendum on term limits'

NOV. 11, 2008 -- Lost in Obamamania, term limits had a banner day on Nov. 4. Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal noticed and documented it in the Nov. 11 edition of the WSJ’s Political Diary under the headline “Terms of Entrenchment”:

“Earlier this year when New York's Michael Bloomberg announced he would seek to overhaul the city's term limit law so he could run for mayor again, the political class exalted. His move, now accomplished, was said to mark a backlash against term limits, a key agenda item for conservative government reformers.

“Not so fast. In last week's election, limits on politicians' time in office were enacted or reaffirmed by enormous margins nearly everywhere they were on the ballot in what might have been the loudest referendum for term limitation by voters ever.

“Louisiana voters said ‘yes' to term limits on elected state officials by a 70% to 30% margin, making the Bayou state the 15th with term limits. Meanwhile, South Dakota's lobbying community tried to overturn that state's term limits law, approved by voters 12 years earlier. Bad idea: 76% of voters said ‘hell, no.’ That was a bigger margin of victory than when term limits were originally instituted.

“In localities ranging from State College, Pennsylvania to Tracy, California and Memphis, Tennessee, voters approved term limits by two-to-one margins. Eight of the ten largest U.S. cities now have term limits. The only setback was a slight one, when San Antonio voters approved an extension of term limits to a maximum of eight years in office from the current four years.

“‘We won everywhere,’ declares U.S. Term Limits executive director Philip Blumel. ‘In state after state and town after town across America, term limits are gradually becoming the law of the land.’ An astonishing 83% of voters polled in October answered ‘yes’ to the following question: ‘Do you favor term limits on your elected officials?’ We're hardpressed to think of a single issue in America today that commands such levels of support. What the public is most eager to see is term limits on U.S. Congress but that, alas, will require a Constitutional Amendment approved by the careerists in Congress themselves. That's like asking a cat to put a bell on itself.

“Some fifteen years ago when the term limits movement was first gaining steam, then-Rep. Dan Rostenkowski huffed that term limits would lead to a ‘Congress of mediocrity.’ A decade and a half later, many voters think mediocrity in our public officials would be a vast improvement.”

Term Limits Win Everywhere Nov. 4

NOV. 4, 2008 -- Here’s a complete list of term limits votes around the nation that I know about. If I forgot any, please let me know.

South Dakota (J) – repeals term limits on state legislature.
YES: 87,361 (24.27%)
NO: 272,551 (75.73%) TERM LIMITS WIN!

Memphis, TN – Places a maximum of two terms on the city council, mayor and other constitutional offices.
YES: 177,571 (78.23%) TERM LIMITS WIN!
NO: 49,420 (21.77%)

Shelby County, TN (365) – Places term limits on various city charteroffices to match limits on county commission and mayor
YES: 273,107 (78.59%) TERM LIMITS WIN!
NO: 74,409 (21.41%)

San Antonio, TX (1) – Extends term limits for city council
NO: 178,611 (48.4%)

Tracy, CA (T) – Places a 2 four-year term limit on the city council and mayor
YES: 12,613 (67.21%) TERM LIMITS WIN!
NO: 6,154 (32.79%)

Rowlett, TX — extends term limit from two to three terms.
YES: 8,953 (44%)
NO: 11,295 (56%) TERM LIMITS WIN!

State College Borough, PA — repeals term limits for borough council.
YES: 8,050 (46%)
NO: 9,567 (54%) TERM LIMITS WIN!

Louisiana — statewide referendum to limit terms on a long list ofboards and commissions.
YES: 1,129,711 (69%) TERM LIMITS WIN!
NO: 497,205 (31%)

Daytona Beach Shores, FL -- Measure to repeal 8-year term limits
YES: 36%

North Miami, FL -- Eliminate term limits for mayor
YES: 5,280 (33%)
NO: 10,693 (67%) TERM LIMITS WIN!

Ventura County, CA -- limits county supervisors to 12 years in office
NO: 23%

Lynwood, CA -- limits city council members to two terms in office
NO: 25%

Pinole, CA -- limits city council members to three terms in office
NO: 27%

Leadville, CO -- repeal of county commission term limits
YES: 30%

Ferguson Township, PA -- repeal of two-term limit on township supervisors
YES: 38%
NO: 62% TERM LIMITS WIN! (only 7 of 8 precincts counted)

Florida sends 'citizen legislator' to Congress

NOV. 4, 2008 -- After two consecutive reps left office disgraced, Florida’s Congressional District 16 is fed up with arrogance and scandal under both Republicans and Democrats. This seat, still referred to in political circles as “Mark Foley’s old seat,” has now been handed by voters to Rep. Tom Rooney.

The voters’ decision was contrary to that of most local media endorsements, which cited Rooney’s alleged lack of experience. This is a ludicrous assertion, as Rooney is a former U.S. Army JAG, a criminal prosecutor for the State of Florida and taught Constitutional and Criminal Law at West Point. Currently, he practices law in Stuart, Florida.

What they mean by “lack of experience” is that he never held any elected office. But Rooney sees this as a plus:

“While it is true the three candidates running in the GOP primary are similar on many issues, the quality I believe gives me the advantage is that I am the only non-politician, someone who will truly be a citizen-legislator who is ready to lead,” Rooney told the Stuart News. “I am the only candidate that favors term limits.”

In fact, term limits was a regular theme in his stump speeches, one of which I attended early in the campaign.

To the Town-Crier, another local publication, Rooney said: “I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that I’m going to do anything to get myself elected the next two years,” he said. “I’m not tempted by what special interests can offer you. I favor term limits.”

Congratulations, Tom!