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Term limits serve a useful purpose

January 8, 2013
The Herald-Star

Ours is supposed to be a government guided by representatives we elect from among us. It sometimes seems as if our republic, at both the state and national levels, has been taken over by professional politicians and bureaucrats.

That feeling is nothing new. In 1992, Ohio voters acted on it by approving term limits for members of the General Assembly. More than two-thirds of the state's voters agreed to a constitutional amendment limiting both state senators and members of the House of Representatives to no more than eight consectutive years in the offices to which they were elected.

Some have suggested term limits are a disservice to Buckeye State residents. The old claim that it leads to laws made by relatively inexperienced legislators has been brought up again.

Nonsense. When the new state House of Representatives takes office this year, just five of its 99 members will be replaced because of term limits. In the state Senate, only one member is leaving for that reason.

It has been pointed out the 1992 change was, well, limited. It does not prohibit a lawmaker from sitting out a term, then running for election to the seat he once held or another in government. The ban is only on more than eight consecutive years in one office.

But what about experience in making law and understanding the ramifications on Ohioans of new statutes? Isn't some continuity in the Statehouse desirable?

Perhaps so. But it is provided by the General Assembly's paid staff, who can linger in Columbus for decades if they are doing good jobs.

And what about results? Isn't that why we elect state senators and representatives in the first place?

Among the most important legislative sessions in state history was the one two years ago, just after Gov. John Kasich was elected.

He and legislators faced an $8 billion gap in Ohio's two-year budget, a legacy of the previous governor and General Assembly.

Working with the Kasich administration, lawmakers found ways to balance the budget without major new taxes. The process was handled skillfully by legislators who, with the exception of half a dozen long-termers who coped with term limits by switching back and forth between the House and Senate, were relatively inexperienced.

In important ways, then, term limits clearly have not been detrimental. They should be retained, simply to avoid allowing the Statehouse to be ruled as it was for many years by a cadre of professional politicians.

 
 

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