We don’t believe in term limits for elected officials.
There, we said it.
It’s an issue we’ve danced around for years, but ultimately we believe the matter of rotation in office is best left to the voters to decide. If they choose to adopt term limits (via a constitutional convention, perhaps), then that’s fine – we’ve got no problem with that.
Beyond that, though, we are tired of countless politicians using this issue as populist pablum – a shiny election-year hook for the more impressionable members of our electorate.
“Term limits is all for show,” we wrote last fall. “Politicians rush to embrace it – but then refuse to hold themselves accountable to the standard they claim to endorse. They use the issue for electoral gain, with no intention of ever passing term limits – and certainly no intention of ever limiting their own terms in office.”
Take U.S. congressman Tom Rice, who waxed effusive in support of term limits during his 2012 election – yet is seeking yet another term as one of the most liberal “Republican” lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
Such populist bloviation is opportunistic and hypocritical.
Who is an exception to this rule? Katie Arrington, the freshman state legislator who is challenging the scandal-scarred “Luv Gov” Mark Sanford in this spring’s GOP primary for the Palmetto State’s first congressional district (map).
The math on this race is simple: If Sanford wins, the seat is “flippable” for Democrats. If Arrington wins, it’s a likely GOP hold.
Anyway, we like Arrington because she’s the sort of principled politician Sanford used to be (but isn’t anymore).
For example, last fall she pledged that if elected to congress she would serve no more than four terms in office. In other words she wasn’t just supporting term limits in an abstract sense, she was pledging to limit herself.
Again, we don’t care whether a candidate backs term limits or not … but if they do, they damn well better be prepared to hold themselves to the same standard.
More importantly, Arrington has pushed for a brand of rotation in office that we wholeheartedly endorse – term limits for powerful legislative leaders.
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A year ago, Arrington introduced a bill calling for term limits for committee chairs in both the S.C. House of Representatives and State Senate. That’s a proposal we have consistently embraced – but it was an incredibly unpopular move for her to make within the S.C. General Assembly, where (as we noted) “the be-all, end-all of ‘service’ for most members is to earn (and keep) these influential chairmanships.”
To be clear: Arrington’s bill wouldn’t kick anyone out of office … it would simply limit the amount of time lawmakers were allowed to spend in a particular leadership post, which we believe would constitute a powerful check against the corruption that’s running rampant within the S.C. State House.
Not only that, Arrington’s bill wouldn’t have actually made this change … it would have simply put the question to voters via a statewide constitutional referendum.
“Despite the political risks, Arrington pushed for this reform regardless,” we wrote at the time. “She accompanied her convictions with action, in other words … and while we haven’t always agreed with her votes, we respect her for the consistency and passion she brings to the issues she cares about.”
Unfortunately, Arrington’s colleagues have refused to support her legislation. Just this week, in fact, a House judiciary subcommittee adjourned debate on Arrington’s bill until May – meaning it has missed a critical procedural deadline for bills to cross over from one chamber to another.
In other words, it’s dead …
There is no excuse for this lack of legislative action. Arrington filed this bill, H. 4130, a year ago.
And again, it is simply a call for a referendum on this issue.
Surely lawmakers don’t have a problem letting the public decide how long they occupy these plum posts?
Apparently so …
Last year, we argued judiciary committee members should “move quickly to give (Arrington’s bill) a hearing” so that lawmakers could “pass it at some point during the current two-year session.”
They refused … essentially giving a rubber stamp to the ongoing corruption (and taxpayer waste) in Columbia, S.C.
“Sad,” Arrington told us.
We agree …
Still, Arrington deserves credit for pushing this bill – knowing full well it was an uphill climb likely to result in significant backlash against her. That’s the sort of political courage we’d like to see more of in Columbia (and Washington, D.C.).
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Banner: Sam Holland via S.C. House of Representatives