Monday, July 23, 2012

Consecutive Term Limits and why they’re important

Term limits are a core component in my campaign for state house. When elected, one of the first bills I will introduce into the General Assembly will be legislation for consecutive term limits.

What are “Consecutive Term Limits”?

There are two basic types of term limits: Absolute Term Limits and Consecutive Term Limits.

Absolute Term Limits limit the number of terms a person could hold a specific office in their life. One of the most notable examples of absolute term limits includes the President of the United States of America. The 22nd amendment states that “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice…”

Consecutive Term Limits limit the number of terms a person can hold an office in a row. Once that limit has been reached, they may not run for the same office again until the following term.

Why consecutive term limits are important

The American people have seen the effectiveness of term limits as a control over corruption with our President and the majority of our Governors. This measure would extend the same controls that we see fit in the Executive Branch to our Legislature, which many other States have already implemented.

The legislation which I have authored proposes consecutive term limits for the Georgia House of Representatives and the State Senate. The legislation states that an individual can be elected 4 consecutive terms, but must take one term off at least once a decade.

A reminder that the seat belongs to the people

It should never be forgotten that a representative’s seat belongs to the people. Some elected officials I have spoken to have told me that they have earned their incumbency advantage. When an individual believes that they have a right to their elected title, they begin to lose sight of what it means to represent the people. This is the attitude held by many career politicians, not citizen legislators.

Why not absolute term limits?

If the people really believe that they’ve found a great representative, we should not make it impossible for that person to ever run for office again. That would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

With consecutive term limits, we take away the incumbency advantage once a decade. After that, a previous representative can earn back the title of representative once more.

Consecutive term limits incentivize competition

Incumbents sometimes have hundreds of thousands of dollars on hand… a daunting challenge for new opposition. How does a fresh face compete against an incumbent with that kind of money?

While great ideas and strong work ethic go a long way, some newcomers may turn to lobbyists contributions and out of state dollars to fund their campaigns (Read my post on why I do not accept lobbyist contributions). This has the potential to strip the power from the people and creates less accountable government.

When a representative has to take two years away from their elected position, there is a more level playing field which incentivizes greater competition and stronger candidates. After two years, the people can re-elect a previous representative if they still think they’re the right person for the job. The people are the ultimate winners.

Term Limits start with District 20

Term limits is a hard sell to a legislature with many incumbents who have spent over a decade in their position. When elected I will fight for term limits on behalf of the people, but it may be years before term limits becomes a reality. The longer we wait to start the discussion, the longer it will take to see meaningful results. That discussion starts with District 20.

In the meantime, the people can make a difference by electing legislators who pledge to limit their own terms. My pledge to you, the people, is this: “I, Michael Caldwell, will not run for the office of State Representative for more than 4 consecutive terms.”