Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In Florida, term limits for state legislators fail spectacularly ... by gimleteye

Who can argue with Kathryn DePalo, a senior instructor at FIU in the Department of Politics and International Studies? Term limits are a spectacular failure in the state legislature.

Initially, the term limit movement sounded like a good idea. The state legislature was dominated by good old boys. Florida politics were locked up tight as a drum, and so breaking up the calcification of legislators-for-life seemed a good idea. We didn't need a professional legislature, organized by politicians who had turned their districts into tenured positions -- never to be terminated -- or so went the thinking. Give elected officials a few terms, and push them out the door.

There were skeptics who worried that a political system lacking institutional memory would simply strengthen lobbyists who were permanent fixtures in the hallways of the state capitol.

The skeptics, it turned out, were right. It's doubly sad, however, because the term limit movement was was in response to a real and not imagined problem: the tendency of democracy to corruption under an imperfect system whose chief success seems to be alienating citizens from government.

Ours is not a government by and for the people.

One hopes that fairly redrawing gerrymandered districts in Florida will help, eventually, to open the clogged arteries of the state legislature. What would help more is to stop the revolving door between regulators --  elected representatives -- and regulated industries that dominate the legislature. What would help more would be to criminalize with harsh sentences, breaches of conduct and ethical violations by lobbyists and politicians.

Real and meaningful campaign finance reform would be a fair exchange for dropping term limits, a failed experiment in making democracy responsive to Florida's needs.

Orlando Sentinel: Florida's term limits just aren't working
July 12, 2015
By Kathryn A. DePalo

The behavior of the Florida House of Representatives during the regular session is a stunning example of the failure of term limits. In 2000, when term limits took effect, they removed almost half the members of the House and more than 25 percent of the Senate in just one election year. Instead of promoting electoral competition, incumbents have procured a new advantage and effectively own their seats until their eight years are up or they decide to vacate early.

Combined with gerrymandered districts so heavily in favor of one political party, legislators do not fear repercussions at the ballot box.

"Citizen" legislators are not pouring into the Capitol as proponents of term limits had hoped. Legislators are more politically ambitious in the post-term-limits era, with many entering office with previous elective experience, and continuing to run for both higher and local offices upon their exit. Political ambition and prospects for their political future are the most prevalent factors in policy decisions today. Short-term thinking abounds in Tallahassee.

The most devastating effect of term limits has been to severely weaken the legislative branch. Power is now solely concentrated in those few individuals at the apex of the leadership hierarchy in each chamber. Individual members possess very little power to effect change if the speaker of the House is adamantly opposed. Abbreviated tenures are responsible for a lack of institutional memory and procedural knowledge among legislators. Lobbyists, in particular, are filling that void. Ironically, the main goal of the term-limits movement was to weaken the influence of lobbyists and special interests. Now, they are more powerful than ever.

With term limits, the Senate tends to have an advantage because most members come from the House and bring legislative experience with them. That is what we saw play out when the House unconstitutionally adjourned during the regular legislative session. These kinds of actions will continue with term limits in place.

Term limits, promoted as a way to make legislators more responsive to constituent needs, have failed spectacularly in the Sunshine State.

Kathryn A. DePalo is a senior instructor at Florida International University in the Department of Politics and International Relations.


Anonymous said...

Term Limits are not the issue the MONEY is. Lobbyist own Tally because they give lots of Money to Legislators campaigns (and who knows what else). Also, PACs and ECOs tied to legislators receive lots and lots of dinero from the lobbyist and their special interest clients.

Ultimately there might never be a fix because humanity isn't perfect so nothing humans create can be perfect. But I think term limits are overall a good thing, politics shouldn't be a career (see Mao, Tito, Castro, Stalin, Clinton, Walker, Rubio, Bush, Kennedy,Ho, Kim, etc etc etc...). At some point people need to get real and that means getting a REAL JOB.

Anonymous said...

Term limits? How about Marc Sarnoff running his wife to take over after his 9 years are up? Everyone knows she will get every vote approved by hubby. Violation?