term limits

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Voters in Michigan’s second-largest city will decide whether to establish term limits for the mayor and city commission next Tuesday.

The proposed change to the city’s charter would limit commissioners and mayors to eight years in office. Commissioners would be able to serve for eight years if elected mayor.

Opponents of term limits say there’s no need for them because voters can kick people out of office by not re-electing them.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
Photo courtesy of Richardville's office

There's been talk in Lansing about whether term limits should be extended, and that talk is heating up. 

Michigan voters approved term limits for state lawmakers back in 1992, but Republican Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville thinks maybe it's time they are extended.

Richardville says Michigan has the most restrictive term limits in the country. Other states have either rescinded or eased term limits and, he believes Michigan should review the legislation as well.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst, and he says term limits have been an unmitigated disaster. 

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
senate.michigan.gov

The state Legislature is scheduled to meet about 20 more days between now and the end of the year.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he has two top priorities he’d like to accomplish before then. The first is to find a way to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads. The second is to ease term limits on Michigan lawmakers.

Richardville says there’s too little experience in the Legislature, thanks to current limits.

“People in general say, ‘I like the idea of term limits.’ But I don’t think they’d like it to be as restrictive as they are. If they knew how quickly and how much turnover there was here, I think they would rethink it,” said Richardville.

Richardville says he’s considering a plan that would allow term-limited lawmakers to collect a certain number of petition signatures allowing them to run again. He did not say exactly how long lawmakers should be allowed to serve.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville will be out of a job in less than six months, thanks to term limits.

This means his career in elected politics may be over.

And I am beginning to be sorry about that. In the last few months, Richardville, a former Monroe businessman, has evolved into a leader capable of looking beyond a narrow partisan agenda.

The roads are one example.

In past years, he virtually sneered at Governor Snyder’s call for the Legislature to appropriate billions to fix our crumbling roads. This spring, Richardville switched, came up with a creative plan to finance long-term road repair, and made a valiant, if failed effort, to get it through the Legislature.

He said this was because all he heard from his constituents was “just fix the damn roads.” That may be true, but he did see the light when other members of his caucus were bizarrely talking about trying to push through another tax cut instead.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

A push for change in Michigan term limits

There are efforts underway to change Michigan’s term limits amendment. Representative Joe Havemen (R-Holland) says the current lifetime limit of six years to serve in the House and eight years in the Senate are too short and consequently, legislators are lacking experience. Term limits were approved by Michigan voters ten years ago, and changing that amendment would also require voter approval.

Town hall to be held for road repairs

Lawmakers are expected to discuss how to pay for improvements to the state’s roadways at a town hall meeting tonight in Grand Rapids. Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith reports, "the public will get a chance to weigh in on Governor Snyder’s proposal to raise more than a billion dollars a year. Snyder wants to raise vehicle registration fees and the gas tax to cover the costs, but the Legislature passed a budget last week that only included a fraction of the money he wanted."

Michigan faces class action lawsuit from students

The state of Michigan may be facing a class action lawsuit over a student loan program. Starting in 2003 the Michigan Students First program provided a subsidy to people after they paid their first 36 loan payments on time, but that subsidy ended in 2010. Attorney Jeff Hank says that left thousands of Michiganders with much more to pay on their student loans. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that the lawsuit could end up costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

Barely a week ago, California voters approved changes to the state’s term limits law. California will now allow state lawmakers to serve up to a dozen years in one chamber before they are forced out of office and, a Republican legislator in Michigan hopes this state will follow California’s example.

California’s old term limits law was similar to the one in Michigan that allows lawmakers no more than six years in the House and eight years in the Senate. 

Republican state Senator John Pappageorge says Michigan has suffered because state lawmakers are inexperienced and never learn to work together.

Pappageorge says the idea of tweaking term limits is popular with Michigan voters. But he says politicians are reluctant to change them.

“The bean counters on the Democrat side say, ‘This will help the Republicans.’ The bean counters on the Republican side say, ‘This will help the Democrats.’ That’s what I’ve been trying to overcome.”

Pappageorge says he still hopes to amend term limits in Michigan before he is termed out of office in 2014.

Many voters suspect politicians are corrupted by money. Campaign contributions and cozy relationships with lobbyists make voters wonder if their elected officials have their best interests at heart. That’s led to attempts to fix the problem in Michigan, but observers say sometimes the ‘fix’ makes the problem worse.

Politicians need money to run campaigns to win elections. And often that money comes from the rich and powerful. But what do those politicians get in return?

State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

In 1992, Michigan voters amended the state Constitution and put limits on the number of terms legislators in Lansing can serve.

State representatives in Michigan are limited to three terms.

State senators are limited to two terms.

Last year, the state had a massive influx of new legislators in Lansing because of term limits. More than half of them were replaced.

Now, one representative in Lansing wants to extend how much time a legislator can serve.

More from the Associated Press:

Rep. Rick Olson plans to offer a resolution next month allowing lawmakers to serve a total of 14 years in either the House or Senate while letting each year's session run only from January through June.

The Saline Republican told reporters Friday after taping public television's "Off the Record" program that he doesn't think the current term limits allowing just three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate are giving lawmakers enough time to learn the job.

The former Adrian Public Schools business manager wants lawmakers to serve up to 14 years in just one chamber if they choose. His proposal would take effect after 2014 so most current lawmakers couldn't extend their stays.

It also would let the governor call special sessions if needed.