Think About It: Time for Term Limits? - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News Now, Local Programming

May 28, 2012

Think About It: Time for Term Limits?

One of the many reasons that things often don't get done during legislative sessions is the fact that most legislators, both local and national, are very careful not to alienate their core constituent base, because if they anger their base supporters, they might be out of a job next time around. So, safety prevails, even at the expense of making bold and necessary changes some times. Term limits were more the norm in this country 225-years ago, and the push surfaced again about 30-years ago, but interest in enacting such limits has died down of late. U.S. House and Senate incumbents, when they run again, are re-elected about 95% of the time. That's stunning.

Proponents for term-limits argue that elected officials get too comfortable with special interests, lose sight of what's going on in the streets back home, lack fresh ideas, and see the position as a presumed seat for as long as they want it. Those against term limits say limits discount experience and might keep good people from going after the jobs. Well, the U.S. Congress currently sports a 90% disapproval rating, so apparently a lot of American voters think something's wrong or has got to change. And what about the U.S. Supreme Court, which is a job that lasts "during good behaviour", as it is written, which can be a lifetime. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and John Paul Stevens retired as Supremes at age 90. Should the biggest decisions in this country really be made by people who might not be at the top of their game and simply can't see a reason to step aside? It's food for thought. Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of term limits, and many people thought and think he was a pretty sharp guy. Like standing water, perhaps elected and appointed decision-makers get stagnant and need to be flushed out with some fresh water over time. It's not an insult to suggest as much, just some subjective food for thought.

About 15 of our state legislatures have some form of term limits. The basic premise is- do your best work, and then move on and let someone else move in. We don't feel that way in Hawaii. We are champions of protecting the status quo in far too many ways and places, starting with the legislature. Maybe now is the time to revisit this concept at home and in Washington, D.C. Maybe the people should decide, since it's their country after all. Think about it…

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