OPINION: Term limits hurt you, voters
As we begin the 91st legislative session, I want to talk about an issue that is neither in the news or will be in front of us in bill form this session. I figure there will be plenty of time over the next several weeks to talk about education fun...
As we begin the 91st legislative session, I want to talk about an issue that is neither in the news or will be in front of us in bill form this session. I figure there will be plenty of time over the next several weeks to talk about education funding and Medicaid expansion.
What I want to talk about is legislative term limits and how they have severely hurt you, the constituent taxpayer. Now before you go thinking, "oh here's another politician who just wants more power," let me explain.
First, I'll admit right up front that I am a product of term limits. I probably wouldn't be one of your representatives if there weren't term limits. I respect former Rep. Lance Carson and would have never run a primary against him or Rep. Tona Rozum. But in my short time in office, I've come to see how term limits have taken power from the Legislature in the form of prior legislative knowledge and given it to unelected state agencies (bureaucrats) and the lobbyists in Pierre.
So many legislators are always new and have fewer than eight years of experience when it comes to state government issues. When we have questions about the way things are done, we often have to go either to our staff lawyers in the Legislative Research Council or the agency that would most likely be impacted. (I.e., A legislator may be thinking of legislation that would change how the Department of Health operates, but that legislator would have to go to the Department of Health to get information. The department may not want to change in the way the legislator thinks is best and may try to interfere with legislation before the legislative process takes place.)
Now, I don't want to denigrate any of the agencies, because they are filled with good, hard-working, honest people whom, for the most part, are trustworthy. However, in my opinion, it is not a good way to run a system of government where the policy makers are at the mercy of the policy enforcers for historical perspective.
If agencies want to influence legislation before it is even written, we have no other authority on the issue at hand to get honest answers from which to make the best decision possible. In the past, before term limits were enacted, there were legislators who had been in office so long they were experts on the issues and how state government was run, but were still accountable to the voters from their district and, I would argue, were very effective for their constituents.
Also, legislative term limits hurt you, the voter, by taking away a choice from you. A district may have a senator or representative whom they really like and does an excellent job, but because of term limits, your choice to continue to elect them is gone. Term limits should exist only at every election held when the voters decide if someone should come or go.
This, of course, would put more responsibility on the voters to be engaged and informed so they can make intelligent choices every election. More involvement by everyone makes for better government. Remember, the Legislature is made of citizens like you who also have what we refer to as our "real lives." We are your most available advocates when it comes to government, and when the Legislature is strong, you are strong.
Throughout the next several weeks, I will be providing you with my thoughts on different bills and general things going on here in Pierre.
Please contact me in any way you like during the session. I prefer email because it's easier to keep track of and respond to, but phone and snail mail also work.
My email address is email@example.com ; my phone number is (605) 770-9708 or (605) 773-3851. My address at the capitol is 500 E. Capitol, Pierre, S.D., 57501.