Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Failure of Term Limits

http://upf.com/book.asp?id=DEPAL001

Synopsis of book by Kathryn A. DePalo
Foreword by David Colburn and Susan MacManus

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In 1992, Florida voters approved an amendment to the state's Constitution creating eight-year term limits for legislators--making Florida the second-largest state to implement such a law. Eight years later, sixty-eight term-limited senators and representatives were forced to retire, and the state saw the highest number of freshman legislators since the first legislative session in 1845.

Proponents view term limits as part of a battle against the rising political class and argue that limits will foster a more honest and creative body with ideal "citizen" legislators. However, in this comprehensive twenty-year study, the first of its kind to examine the effects of term limits in Florida, Kathryn DePalo shows nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, these limits created a more powerful governor, legislative staffers, and lobbyists. Because incumbency is now certain, leadership races--especially for Speaker--are sometimes completed before members have even cast a single vote. Furthermore, legislators rarely leave public office; they simply return to local offices where they continue to exert influence.

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http://florida.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.5744/florida/9780813060484.001.0001/upso-9780813060484

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(abstract of the book by Kathryn A. DePalo)

Forced turnover has facilitated more competition but only when a seat initially opens. Term limits have not dramatically increased the number of women and minorities elected to office as proponents envisioned. Politicians elected under term limits are shown to have significant elective experience coming into the Legislature and continue to vie for elected positions when they exit, certainly not the “citizen” legislators proponents preferred. Legislative process knowledge is not the important criteria for leadership selection under term limits; the ability to fundraise and campaign for fellow party members is now the key criterion. The Senate has become the repository of institutional memory and gained an advantage over the less experienced House. The legislative branch is severely weakened under term limits with the governor, staff, and lobbyists filling the void. While term limits remain a popular idea in Florida, the effect on the legislative institution has not been a positive one.

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http://www.gainesville.com/news/20160212/dave-denslow-term-limits-have-failed-florida

Dave Denslow: Term limits have failed Florida
Feb 12, 2016

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how have we fared under term limits? Kathryn DePalo of Florida International University answers that question in her new book "The Failure of Term Limits in Florida." Term limits have given us fewer tested leaders in the House for heading committees and serving as speaker. The Senate fares better, since many members trained in the House. Term limits have also polarized the House, with candidates motivated more by ideology than by public service careers.

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http://askew.fsu.edu/current/masters/actionreport/fa2006/Joe%20Waczewski%20-%20Analysis%20of%20the%20Impact%20of%20Term%20Limits.pdf

The Florida State University
“An Analysis of the Impact of Term Limits on the Florida Legislature”

An Action Report Submitted to the Faculty of the College of Social Science in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Public Administration
The Florida State University
“An Analysis of the Impact of Term Limits on the Florida Legislature”
By Joe Waczewski
Tallahassee, December, 2006

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While in Florida legislative term limits seem to be a popular and practical concept, they have not been an ideal solution to the problems they were intended to fix: political careerism, ineffectiveness and increased corruption in the legislative process; issues which require profound changes in both campaign finance and electoral systems, not simply “feel good” quick fixes like term limits. Term limits hinder the legislative and political processes in Florida in numerous ways: They do not necessarily curb the political aspirations of politicians; increase the possibility of corruption in the legislative process by interest groups attempting to influence a growing number of new and inexperienced legislators, and accelerate tension in the relationship between the legislative branches, as recent legislative sessions have shown.

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[Details of the results of term limits begin on page 23 of the pdf]

These trends suggest term limits hinder the legislative process in some ways:

1) Term limits do not necessarily curb the political aspirations of politicians ...
2) Term Limits do not necessarily weaken the interest groups-legislators linkage. ...
3) Term limits force legislators to focus more on the power structure of the legislature and less on the needs of their particular district ...

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http://www.governing.com/topics/politics/Truth-Term-Limits.html

by Alan Greenblatt | January 2006

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Steven Rowe is a big proponent of early childhood interventions. He believes they can help reduce rates of mental illness, learning disability and, ultimately, criminal behavior. While serving as speaker of the Maine House six years ago, Rowe translated his ideals into a specific program, sponsoring legislation that expanded child care subsidies, provided tax breaks to businesses offering child care help to their workers and created a statewide home visitation network. ... his package passed by an overwhelming margin. It may have been Rowe's most important accomplishment as a legislator. It was also one of his last. After eight years in the House, including two as speaker, he was forced out of office by the state's term limits law. Rowe is now Maine's attorney general--a good job, but one that doesn't give him much leverage over the program he created. His cosponsors on the child care law aren't in the legislature anymore, either. They have been term-limited out as well.

In the absence of Rowe and his child care allies, funding for the package has already been slashed by a third, with more cuts likely to come. Plenty of programs have lost funding in recent years as Maine, like so many states, has suffered from fiscal shortfalls. But Maine, along with other term limit states, is experiencing an added phenomenon: the orphaned program, vulnerable to reduction or elimination because of the forced retirement of its champions. "We're probably seeing more neglect because legislators aren't there to babysit their own legislation," says Renee Bukovchik Van Vechten, a political scientist at the University of Redlands, in California. "We're seeing laws that need updating, and that's the least sexy part of the job."

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It shouldn't come as a surprise that short-term legislators aren't prone to engage in long-term thinking. It's happening in all 15 of the states where term limits have gone into effect. In Arkansas several years ago, members of the legislature negotiated a solid waste fee to underwrite future environmental cleanups. After they all left office, a new group, not appreciating what the money had been set aside for-- or probably not even knowing--dipped into it, disbursing the funds into a newly favored program of their own.

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almost everyone involved in the legislative process sees governors as big winners under term limits. In addition to their constitutional authority to sign and veto bills, governors in term- limited states control many top-level state jobs that legislators facing short stints will soon want. Whether it is a question of job ambitions, a shortage of information or sheer inexperience, the reality seems to be that legislators do a far less effective job of competing with governors for power once term limits take effect.

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