Friday, December 16, 2011

Newt Gingrich no friend of Congressional term limits

With the rise of Newt Gingrich in the polls, I have been repeatedly asked where he stands on term limits.

After all, didn't he win the House back in 1994 with his Contract with America which included term limits? Yes, but that's only part of the story.

In 1991, before the Contract with America, Newt Gingrich called term limits "a terrible idea." However later when nearly every state with a citizen initiative process had term limited their U.S. Congress members and state representatives, Newt added this "terrible idea" to his platform and indeed it was the most popular plank.

Once in power, Newt did everything possible to avoid passage and, worse, actively schemed to undo the work done by the citizens in the states who had collected millions of signatures and cast millions of votes.

Newt appointed Florida Congressman Bill McCollum to be his point man on the issue. Newt and Bill pushed a politician-friendly 12-year term limits amendment bill that blatantly upended the mostly 6- and 8-year term limits passed by 23 states. But that was only part one of the betrayal.

Newt was and is a brilliant political schemer. Gingrich and McCollum's insistence on a 12-year bill in direct defiance to the national term limits movement was part of a proliferation of term limits bills. This proliferation permitted every Congress member to support a bill and go back home and brag about their vote to their constituents, while remaining confident that none would ever pass. In all there were 11 different term limits bills introduced, four of which came to a vote. A tough vote under any circumstances, by dividing the votes between the different bills, the people's goose was cooked.

The attitude of Reps. Gingrich and McCollum were probably best summed up by another Contract with American beneficiary Rep. Dick Armey of Texas who famously said that "If we Republicans can straighten out the House . . . then I think maybe the nation's desire for term limits will be diminished."

Hardly. Recent polling shows some 78 percent of Americans -- including 84 percent of Republicans and 74 of Democrats and 74 percent of independents -- support Congressional term limits.

Today, Gingrich is at least up-front about his opposition to term limits. In September in Orlando, he told U.S. Term Limits Board Member Rick Shepherd, essentially, "We tried that and it didn't work." Sure, Newt, whatever.

So when I am asked if lifetime professional politician-turned-lobbyist-turned presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is the Patron Saint of Term Limits, I answer: Hell no.

Term limits make their mark in Missouri

Although it is not its intention, a new 15-page report, “The Impact and Implications of Term Limits in Missouri” by David C. Valentine, provides data that highlights the success of term limits in that state’s legislature.

In 1992, Missouri citizens collected signatures and put an initiative on the ballot that limited both state representatives and senators to 8 years in office. Voters approved the constitutional amendment with 75 percent of the vote and a May 2011 poll suggests 77 percent of Missourians continue to support the law. It went into full effect in 2003.

Citizens can easily see how term limits have resulted in more competitive elections and regular rotation in office. But Valentine’s study adds some color to our more casual observation:

First, term limits in Missouri have largely erased the surge in tenure that marked the later 20th Century. This nation’s founders believed that regular rotation in office was essential for democracy to operate and indeed for the first century and a half of our history their vision operated in our state houses and even the U.S. Congress. But in the latter half of the 20th century, coinciding with the growth of government, entrenched incumbency became the norm in nearly all political bodies of any size. The classic example is the U.S. House, where today there is a roughly 95 probability probability of an incumbent winning a race for their own seat. But in Missouri, as the study shows, the average tenure has shrunk to pre-surge norms.

Second, in the Missouri House, rotation in office due to term limits has created a more representative body comprising a far broader range of experience. The data show that previous legislative experience has been significantly reduced, an obvious result of term limits.

Third, the intended division between the upper and lowers houses of the legislature have been maintained and improved. While the House has been transformed into a far more representative body, the percentage of the Senate with significant legislative experience remains very high, as many or most Senators serve first in the House. Hence, the balance – previously skewed toward professional politicians – has swung back more toward the center, balancing the value of experience and improving the representation and participation of the citizens.

The result of this transformation has been positive. While every legislature – like every marriage -- is dysfunctional in its own way, some state governments are certainly better than others. The American Legislative Exchange Council – no friend of term limits – grades the states on a dozen or so result-oriented metrics. In the most recent score card, the top of the list is crowded with states with term limited legislatures. Missouri is ranked 9.

In spite of all this, the author of the University of Missouri study argues forcefully that the reductions in tenure and legislative experience in Missouri are defects of term limits. In effect he is arguing that legislative term limits are a failure because they limit terms of legislators! He suggests this is an “unintended consequence” of term limits.

Beyond the helpful data, the article consists of pretty standard rhetoric opposing term limits which will be helpful to the politicians in Jefferson City looking to hold on to their jobs. Given its timing and style, this is surely the intended purpose of the report.

Fortunately, the voters of Missouri have different ideas. They voted for the term limits and believe time has validated their decision. When polled in May on why they believed state politicians want to weaken term limits, a full 78 percent -- including big majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents – said “keeping themselves in power.” Only 9 percent said “achieving better government."

Sounds like rotation is office is precisely the consequence voters intended.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Huntsman: "We need term limits in Congress"

The latest presidential contender to weigh in on Congressional term limits is former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. He mentioned his support for the idea as an aside during the Nov. 22 CNN presidential debate on foreign policy.

“We need a Washington that works,” said Huntsman. “We have a Congress that can’t even figure out how to balance our budget. They need term limits, by the way. We’ve gotta get our house in order…"

I cheered, surprised. But apparently his advocacy of term limits is not new.

“Governor Huntsman has been an advocate of term limits since his time as governor of Utah," Joel Sawyer, Huntsman’s South Carolina director, told the Nashua Telegraph. “He believes they’re needed in Congress, because much like his tax plan that eliminates corporate welfare and loopholes, it would go a long way toward breaking up entrenched special interests and ending crony capitalism."

Of course it would. Huntsman paired his support for term limits with a lifetime ban on lobbying after a Congress member has been term limited. This package has become part of his stump speech in New Hampshire.

But he went further in an interview with this on Nov. 21. Not only do we need term limits, but Huntsman sees a role for the U.S. president in instituting them.

“We need term limits in Congress,” he said. “We need restrictions on members of Congress who then go into lobbying. We've got some structural problems here that make it very difficult to do the work of the people. And to have a president who's willing to use the bully pulpit in identifying and pointing out those issues, as well, would be a very good thing in this country.”

Huntsman joins former Gov. Gary Johnson – the sole signatory of the U.S. Term Limits presidential pledge – in calling for a presidential role in establishing term limits on Congress. Rep. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have also spoken fondly of the popular reform, while Gov. Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman and Newt Gingrich are opposed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Turner win in NY a victory for Congressional term limits

This morning's press release tells the story:

SEPTEMBER 14, 2011 -- U.S. Term Limits President Philip Blumel celebrated the victory of Bob Turner to the U.S. House in yesterday’s special election in New York’s 9th as a victory for the cause of Congressional term limits.

"We welcome yet another new face in Washington who is committed to opening up the Congress to citizen legislators like himself," said Blumel. Turner is a retired media executive of 40 years.

A Constitutional amendment bill has been introduced by Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) in the U.S. Senate which limit members of the House to three terms and Senators to two terms in office. Turner is a signatory of a U.S. Term Limits pledge to support such legislation.

"Turner’s upset election in is just one more shock wave to hit the power structure in D.C. People are demanding an end to the entitled political culture in our nation’s capitol and passage of the term limits Constitutional Amendment would be a great leap towards that goal,” Blumel said. “We look forward to seeing Rep. Turner’s name on the growing list of cosponsors for the term limits amendment."

To sign an online petition in favor of the term limits amendment, go here.

Term limits continues to enjoy broad, bi-partisan support with 78% of U.S. registered voters in favor of congressional term limits according to a September 2010 FoxNews Public Opinion Dynamics poll of registered voters. The poll showed 74% of Democrats polled favored term limits with 84% of Republicans indicating support, with overall support jumping 8% from a March 2009 poll.

Passage of the Constitutional Amendment requires a 2/3 vote of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives followed by passage in 38 states.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rick Perry: "I am not a fan of term limits"

With a term limits amendment in both houses of the Congress picking up sponsorship and polls showing unprecedented support for the idea among voters, term limits may become an important issue of the 2012 presidential campaign. In fact, presidential support could be a decisive factor in getting the amendment through Congress.

So far, presidential candidates have been largely mum. Gov. Gary Johnson has signed the U.S. Term Limits presidential term limits pledge, committing to advocate term limits in his campaign and, if elected, as president. But the others, nothing, until now.

Gov. Rick Perry broke the silence this week with his announcement that "I am not a fan of term limits ... I am very passionate about this." He made the announcement, with a convoluted defense of his position, in response to a citizen who asked if he'd help get the amendment passed.

See the video here.

Note how he pivots to another popular amendment to recover, as the audience is not on Perry's side here. But, of course, support for term limits and a balance budget amendment are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the two reforms made up the core of Sen. Rand Paul's successful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate. The positions helped Paul catapault over his establishment rival.

Perhaps something similar may happen in the presidential race too.

To let the Congress know you are a fan of Congressional term limits, please sign the online petition here. Thanks!

County politicians ask Florida Supreme Court to abolish voter-approved county term limits

It's official. Broward County politicians, hiding behind their attorneys, are appealing the recent appellate court decision that deemed county commission term limits constitutional. Yes, county term limits are going to the Florida Supreme Court.

Bill Scherer, acting for sitting Broward commissioner John Rodstrom among others, launched the appeal after losing his case at the appellate court level on Aug. 10. The appellate court had decided -- unanimously -- that home rule charter counties do indeed have the right to customize their county commissions as they have long done.

It is for this reason that some charter counties have seven commissioners and some have five, or even 13. Some have single member districts and some are elected from the county at-large -- and some have a blend of the two. Some have a strong mayor system and some have a commission-manager structure. Some counties offer nominal compensation to cover expenses and others offer high salaries with benefits. Some charter counties (10) have term limits and some don't (10).

In home rule counties, all charter changes such as these are approved by the voters in a referendum, sometimes by a citizen's initiative after collecting thousands of signatures from their neighbors. Florida's county term limits were adopted by lopsided votes of the people, including 80% voter approval in Broward.

The August decision by the 4th District Court of Appeals upheld Broward County term limits, argued that this traditional understanding of home rule is correct. The people won; the politicians lost. It should have ended there.

But politicians grasp for power like a drowning man gasps for air. Scherer and his cronies argue in their appeal to the Supreme Court that the people cannot be trusted to alter their charter in this way. Instead, county commissioners should be treated just like constitutional officers -- such as the tax collector and property appraisers -- which are state creations over which the Supreme Court has said people have less say.

This is seen as a weak argument, as constitutional officers are distinct from county commissioners are treated in a different section of the state constitution. The quite readable 4th district decision makes this distinction as clear as day.

Meanwhile, the desperate Broward political clan is tossing 2012 county elections across the state into confusion in their last bid to hold on to the thrones that have enriched and, sadly but evidently, corrupted them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"An Act of Self-Defense" offers literal take on term limits revolution

Readers of Erne Lewis' "An Act of Self-Defense" who have also read Vince Flynn's "Term Limits" will not be able to help comparing the two. For one thing, both novels revolve around frustrated Americans who target -- literally -- Congress members in a revolutionary attempt to get the federal government under control.

In Lewis' version, the four-person rebel cadre call themselves the Term Limits Revolution and threaten to kill one Congress member per day until a 8-year term limits amendment is passed and sent to the states for ratification. Once they do that, the TLR promised to stand down and the states are free to ratify or reject it.

In the TLR's initial threat to Congress, they argue "Thomas Jefferson believed the failure to include term limits in the Constitution was a fatal error. He predicted another revolution would be necessary to regain the individual rights lost to the power-loving politicians who would, over time, increase their power at the cost of our liberty. Jefferson could not have foreseen that the federal government would today be capable of tracking our every move and communication..."

This last sentence provides much of the suspense that makes this Lewis' first novel a page-turner. The book shows, rather dramatically, how the Patriot Act and other Congressional excesses can be used not only to track down legitimate threats like the TLR, but also misused to harrass innocent Americans by overly aggressive law enforcement or, worse, for purely political reasons.

In one dramatic example, a no-knock warrantless raid on the president of a national term limits advocacy organization -- yikes! -- goes awry with tragic results. And it turns out the target of the raid had no connection or knowledge of the TLR.

Lewis has done his homework, both on the term limits issue and on the new-fangled powers government has usurped by exploiting people's fear of Muslim terrorists following 9/11.

Much like with the Flynn book, the reader finds himself identifying a little too closely with the revolutionaries. Fortunately, in the real world, we may indeed need a term limits revolution, but not one armed with guns and bombs.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

COURT: Florida's county term limits are constitutional!

Today the Florida 4th District Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that had overturned voter-approved term limits in Broward County.

In other words, the court has ruled that county commissioner term limits are constitutional in Florida.

Yes, Florida’s county commissioner term limits laws are safe (for now) from attack by local politicians via the courts!

It was expected that county term limits would win at the Florida Supreme Court level, but there were concerns about the appellate court case because it looked at a narrower question than home rule and the right of citizens to impose term limits at the county level. The fear was that local politicians would try to use an adverse appellate decision to void local term limits laws before the case got to the Supreme Court. Two Palm Beach County commissioners, for instance, announced they planned to do just that.

But no more.

Today marks a great victory for the voters and a loss for professional politicians.

Thanks to the Broward County attorney’s office for doing a great job in defending the people’s will and all the term limits supporters around the state that rallied behind their popular term limits laws.

For the full story as it unfolded, see the blog

Sunday, July 10, 2011

IT'S HAPPENING! Term limits amendment filed in the U.S. House

On Thursday, Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois (pictured), Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona and Jeff Duncan of South Carolina introduced a term limits amendment bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, a companion to Sen. DeMint's term limits bill in the Senate.

This means that for the first time since the early 1990s, there is a serious term limits bill introduced in both houses with cosponsorship. With polling for term limits at its highest level ever, the time is right.

Like the DeMint bill, the amendment would limit the terms of house members to six years and senators to 12.

"If we have any hope of ending business as usual in D.C., we must first change the process," Walsh said in his announcement. "Term limits encourage competitive elections and a consistent influx of new leaders bringing a range of different experiences and new ideas to Congress. Keeping the same Members in Congress year after year will yield the same results – runaway spending and a sky-high debt that has led the United States to the verge of insolvency. It’s time to put an end to this. It’s time to bring in new Members with fresh ideas, ready and eager to serve. It’s time to pass a term limit Amendment."

To pass, the bill must be approved two-thirds of the Congress. This is no easy task. Please help!

+ Please sign our online petition in favor of Congressional term limits and pass a link on to your friends, family and associates.

+ Ask your representative in Congress -- and his or her opponents -- to sign the U.S. Term Limits pledge to support the amendment. Traditionally, candidates speak fondly of term limits until they get elected. The pledge locks in their support once they are the incumbents!

+ Make a contribution to U.S. Term Limits. Founded in 1991, we are the oldest and largest national term limits organization with the experience and resources to get the job done.

After passing Congress, the bill has to pass three-fourths of the states, but this is a much lower hurdle. The problem is getting the Congress to limit itself. That will require igniting the passion of the 78 percent of Americans that tell pollsters they support Congressional term limits.

This new bill is the starting gun in the most important political battle of a generation. Let's take it all the way to the finish line.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Citizens demand revote on El Paso term limits

As reported earlier, some commissioners in El Paso County, Colorado, appear to have used a cleverly worded ballot question to snatch another term in office and the annual $87,300 and other perks that come with it.

Since waking up to the ruse, citizens have been agitating for a second, more straightforward vote to clear up the confusion. Not surprisingly, the perpetrators have tried to avoid this, hoping with time this issue would just go away.

It hasn't.

Instead the clamor has grown to the point where the commission agreed to hold a formal public hearing on the subject Monday, June 27. Then, the issue will appear as an agenda item on Thursday's county commission meeting. Citizens are urged to attend both.

The citizens have two allies on the commission, as Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton agree a second vote should be held as soon as possible. But they need one more vote to refer a new ballot question, as county citizen initiatives are not permitted in Colorado.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Commissioner Sallie Clark has asked the county attorney Bill Louis whether the commission has the power to simply rescind the Nov. 2 vote and start over.

The stonewalling is over. This week the commission is all ears. Please take advantage of this opportunity to tell them how you feel.

For more information, see the new citizen website at

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CLASS STRUGGLE: Politicians versus the People in Missouri

Please help me out with my math here. Something is just not adding up.

In a 2011 vote of the Missouri State Senate, 88 percent of the legislators approved an amendment to abolish their voter-approved eight-year term limit and replace it with a cozier 16-year limit.

In a 2011 poll released this week, 77 percent of Missourians said they oppose precisely this change. Please note this is nearly the same percentage (75 percent) that voted to approve the current term limits law back in 1992.

How can these lopsided figures be reconciled? Maybe the political calculation is all too clear.

There aren't many issues in which the special interests of politicians as a class conflict so directly with the interests and demands of the people. But term limits is one of these.

The respondents in the new poll sum it up well. A full 78 percent of the Missourians polled said that lawmakers who voted to lengthen the terms are "primarily interested in keeping themselves in power," including 65 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of independents.

U.S. Term Limits (USTL) commissioned the poll from Pulse Opinion Research conducted among 500 likely Missouri voters, and is now urging members of the state House to reject the proposal, SJR 12, which has already passed the Senate.

The amendment passed the Senate 29 to 4. The stalwart four are worth mentioning for putting the people's interests above their own: State Sens. Jane Cunningham, Jack Goodman, Will Kraus and Brian Nieves. If you know them, thank them for their stand.

If you live in Missouri, let your state representative hear from you right away. You can send an email to Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley here.

Currently, the Missouri state constitution limits state senators to serve two four-year terms in office and state representatives to four two-year terms. They were enacted in 1992 with 75 percent of the vote, going into effect in 2002. No one was limited by this law until 2010.

The Senate is wasting its time and the people’s money by forcing a vote. Even if their amendment rolling back term limits is placed on the ballot, the people will crush it.

(The picture above is from a Missouri Tea Party, 2010.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson: "I'm a believer in term limits, absolutely"

Now that Sen. Jim DeMint has reintroduced his Term Limits for All amendment with 10 cosponsors, the issue is back on the national stage and we need to hear where all national candidates -- including presidential candidates -- stand.

First to speak out has been former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, who is a presidential candidate in all but paperwork (although this too might change on April 21).

Johnson includes term limits as a theme in all his stump speeches. Although mild mannered in person, he is remembered as the governor who vetoed 750 bills and was willing to speak out on controversial issues, such as marijuana legalization.

In typical Johnson fashion, he proclaimed on the Colbert Report television program as early as last May that "I was term limited, Stephen, but i'm a believer in term limits, absolutely. I think politicians will do things they wouldn't ordinarily do when they are term limited, and I probably come under that category. Would I have been as bold?"

Friday, April 15, 2011

DeMint bill is back -- with 10 cosponsors!

For the first time in over a decade, term limits has reemerged as a major issue in Washington DC. Yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) reintroduced his amendment for Congressional term limits -- this time with 10 cosponsors on day one! -- and a House companion is expected to be introduced imminently.

This shot across the bow of Washington's entrenched incumbency is occurring in an environment where some 78 percent of Americans are telling pollsters they want Congressional term limits. It is a bipartisan call, with 84 percent Republican support and 74 from both Democrats and independents.

Americans laughed derisively at Congress after a week of political rodeo in which the parties locked horns, even threatening to shut down the government, over less than $1 billion in budget cuts, according to the Government Accounting Office.

In a body based on seniority in which special interest-backed incumbents almost never lose elections, what else could be expected? Sure, they put on a good show for their respective bases by battling each other at the margins, but in the end the leadership in both parties and in the House and Senate have the same job: they have to keep their big special interest constituencies on the government dole.

The budget battle underscores the need for institutional reform, for term limits. And the DeMint bill is real term limits, mandating a maximum three consecutive terms in the House and two in the Senate. The leadership of both parties and their lap dogs in the media will try to ignore this bill. We cannot let them.

Please take action today:

1) Sign the online petition here supporting the DeMint 3/2 term limits bill.

2) Forward a link to this page to everyone you know.

3) Support U.S. Term Limits with a financial contribution to help promote the bill.

As cosponsor Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) argued in an earlier post on this blog, the time is now for term limits. Let's push this issue to the top of our agendas and take advantage of an opportunity to change Washington forever.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Florida's anti-term limits trickster at it again

He's back! Florida’s anti-term limits obsessive, Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton), has returned with a new scheme to weaken Florida’s term limits -- and it’s more devious than ever.

It has to be. Florida has 8-year legislative term limits written into their constitution and it requires a 60 percent vote in a popular referendum to change them. Given that 2009 polling suggests that some 79 percent of Florida voters like Florida’s term limits just the way they are, a straightforward bill is out of the question.

Sen. Bennett knows this from experience. That’s why last year he tried to tack an anti-term limits amendment to a popular bill to give tax breaks to veterans. That didn’t fly, so this year he has a new trick.

Just as in the past, the core of his proposed amendment (S 0300) is to weaken Florida’s term limits from eight to 12 years. The proposal would also lengthen the individual terms for House members from two to four years and for Senators from four to six.

But to sweeten the deal, the amendment would impose 12-year term limits also on county and municipal politicians.

Get it? This latest iteration of Sen. Bennett’s annual effort to weaken Florida term limits is really a pro-term limits bill! Sen. Bennett aims to sell this as an amendment to "improve" state limits and impose new-and-improved term limits all over the state. He's a term limits hero!

Scott Maxwell summed up it up perfectly in the Orlando Sentinel: “The hypocrisy of this idea is exceeded only by its audacity.”

Worse, the sugar Sen. Bennett is using to sell his snake oil is really only saccharine. This amendment, by imposing 12-year term limits on lower offices, would actually abolish the numerous existing 8-year term limits that exist on county commissions, mayors and city councils all over the state. Many or maybe most of these were put into effect by citizens collecting petitions in the hot summer sun and then approved by vast majorities at the ballot box.

"I'm not really focusing so much on extending the term limit from eight to 12 years,” said the author of the House companion to the Bennett bill, Rep. Rick Kriseman (D-St. Pete).

No kidding.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rand Paul: The time is now for term limits

The following is as good a case for Congressional term limits as any I have seen anywhere. That it was penned by a U.S. Senator is evidence that the issue has momentum at the federal level that we have not seen in over decade. This short essay is lifted from the Rand Paul for Senate website.

By U.S. Sen. Rand Paul

More than 95% of incumbent politicians win re-election to the U.S. Congress. Incumbents win re-election at a higher rate than they did in the Soviet Politburo.

With each successive term, politicians grow more and more distant from the people. It is hard to understand the plight of ordinary citizens when Congressman make over $170,000 per year, have health care benefits worth another $15,000 and become fully vested in a lucrative pension plan within a few years.

Some pundits like to remark that we already have term limits they’re called “elections.” This glib response ignores the fact that incumbent U.S. Senators start each election cycle with an average of $8 million dollars in the bank. The average U.S. Representative starts with over $1 million in the bank.

Most of this incumbent cash comes in the form of $5,000 checks from special interest groups that want federal contracts or federal favors.The challenger must raise his or her contributions largely from individuals, typically averaging under $100 per check.

Is it any wonder that incumbents win almost every election?

Long term incumbency leads to politicians who seem to care more about what is best for their career than what is best for their country.

After the vast enlargement of government under FDR, the country reacted fairly quickly to limit the terms of the President. Over 80% of the public, both Democrats and Republicans, favor term limits. What will it take to force a vote on Congressional term limits?

Today we are drowning in a sea of debt, teetering on financial ruin if we don’t get our house in order. Will this crisis be the one that finally convinces us as a nation to bring these politicians home, to replace them?

You can help Rand enact Congressional term limits. Please sign the online petition here and send this article to your friends, family and coworkers. You can use the SHARE tab atop this page to share this post via email, Facebook and Twitter. -- pb

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Here's a term limits pledge with TEETH

It is easy to forget that back in the early 1990s 23 states actually term limited their federal Congress members to (mostly) six or eight years in office in the House and 12 years in the Senate. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court shot these down term limits before they went into effect in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, 1995.

In response, dozens of Congress members at that time pledged to self limit in a bow to the clear will of the voters. Some of these pledgers lived up to their word, including Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Tom Coburn and others.

However, many did not. When they still identified closely with the people, the Founder’s vision of regular rotation in office sounded like a great idea. But when the time came for them to relinquish the perks of power, these politicians all of a sudden discovered the value of “political experience.”

Hence, the self-limit pledges in many cases aided and abetted some crooked politicians or, at least, politicians who would eventually be corrupted by power. That is, these politicians got to benefit from their popular stand when their political position was new and precarious, but once they were established as part of Washington’s entrenched and largely unbeatable incumbency, they tossed their promise out the window.

Enter bonded term limits. A couple of years ago, a handful of gentlemen out of Pinehurst, NC, added a new twist to the self-limit idea. What if a politician signing a self-limit pledge actually signed a contract – a bond – that legally required them to pay big money to charity if they broke their word?

Now the self-limit idea had teeth, and the Alliance for Bonded Term Limits was born. In ABTL’s first foray in 2010, 22 candidates signed the ABTL bonded term limits pledge. The group was off to a good start.

Self-limiting – George Washington’s inspiring innovation – is back. Next time a candidate or politician is wooing voters with his support for term limits, ask him to sign on the dotted line!

For the candidate pledge kit and a short introductory video on the bonded term limits idea, go here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New El Paso commissioner won't let term limit trick stand

As noted in previous posts, the voters of El Paso County, Colorado, woke up Nov. 3 shocked to find they had voted to weaken their popular county term limits law. They were surprised because the deceptive ballot language used by the El Paso County politicians led voters to think they were voting for term limits!

New commissioner Darryl Glenn -- pictured above -- diplomatically points out "the community feels something underhanded has happened" and proposes that the controversy can be put to rest by placing the issue back on the November ballot in 2011. Simple enough. The reaction from the perps can best be paraphrased as "No way, buddy, we stole that election fair and square!"

However, the scammers do see some room for a compromise. Commissioners Amy Lathen and Dennis Hisey suggested they are open to putting it back on the ballot, but only in 2012 -- ensuring that they get to run for another term in the meantime!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rand Paul: "I will vote to institute term limits"

In a new book released this week, newly minted U.S. Senator Rand Paul tells the story of his surprising rise to national prominence in The Tea Party Goes to Washington.

Less surprising is Rand’s reiterating of his support for Congressional term limits amid his broader program for reforming – or, better, reducing – the federal government. At the end of the book he lays down several clear promises:

“I will vote to institute term limits. I will not vote for a tax increase. I will not vote for earmarks. I will not vote for an unbalanced budget. I will not vote to go to war without a formal declaration as our soldiers deserve and our Constitution demands.”

Certainly this is the Tea Party ethos in a nutshell.

In an interesting side story, Rand notes that a student asked him if his support of term limits required him to oppose veteran Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. “I replied that, no, my support for term limits would mean even my father would have to come home and I wasn’t running against my father either.”

Congratulations Palm Beach County! Citizen-initiated term limits now in effect

Nearly a decade ago, a handful of Palm Beach County citizens launched a citizen initiative effort to limit the terms of Palm Beach County Commissioners to eight years in office. Before the measure reached the 2002 ballot -- where 70% of county voters approved it -- over 150 citizens had joined the campaign, many spending week after week in the hot Florida sun to collect 65,000 signatures from their neighbors.

Their hard work paid off. After eight years, the term limits are now fully in effect. Two current commissioners are no longer eligible to run for re-election: Karen Marcus and Burt Aaronson. Ironically, three other commissioners that would otherwise be affected were indicted on corruption charges and involuntarily left office, underscoring the need for the term limits in the county.

Term limits encourage greater participation and transparency in government as well as regular, competitive elections. It is through the concern and perseverance of the citizenry that they have been achieved.

For a full 'Thank You' list of the citizens who made it happen, plus current news about the term limits law and – sadly -- the machinations of local politicians to circumvent it, see the new local blog here.

If you are local, while you're there you can answer the poll question in the upper right corner of the page: "Would you support a politician who works behind the scenes to overturn our voter-approved term limits law?" Let them know!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Egyptian protestors demand term limits

When the Egyptian protestors first took to the streets of Egypt on January 25, they demanded presidential term limits and resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Not long before Mubarak agreed to step down, a judiciary committee in Egypt agreed to accept the people’s demands and amended six articles of the country’s constitution – including article 76, putting terms limits on the presidency.

It was too little, too late.

Whereas term limits mandate rotation in office even in corrupt democracies, without them sham elections and entrenched leadership often can only be ousted via violence. Hence, the street had to take care of what constitutional rules and elections should have done.

Mubarak had served in office 30 years as ruler of Egypt. And he is not alone in the region. Muammar al-Gaddafi has ‘served’ Libya for 42 years, Sultan Qaboos biri Said Al Said has served Oman for 41 years, Omar al-Bashir in Sudan served for 21 years and Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen has served for 32 years.

That’s nearly as long as U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI, 55 years), Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI, 51 years), Rep. Charles Rangell (D-NY, 40 years) and Rep. Bill Young (R-FL, 40 years) have 'served' us in Congress.

Our Founders recognized that rotation in office was essential for democracy to function and liberty be preserved. The world needs term limits, from the thrones of the Middle East to the U.S. Capitol.