Term Limits

Term Limits

 

Limited government is an integral part of the fabric of representative democracy in Utah and America. Our founding fathers introduced the principle of limited government to define, limit, and separate the powers of government and to increase the people’s control over their government. The process of regular elections and the separation of the branches of government represent some of the efforts of the founding fathers to promote a government that would lead to a large, successful, and powerful nation while respecting the rights of the people.

 

While the Constitution established some devices to encourage limited government it is time that we consider others, including term limits. A term limit is a legal cap on the number of (usually successive) terms an elected official can serve. One example is the US President who is limited to two successive terms. Term limits for Utah’s elected officials will help to provide a more efficient government that is beholden to the people. Reasons for instituting term limits include:

 

-         Combating the Incumbent Advantage: Incumbents (current office holders) enjoy a massive advantage when it comes to elections. According to a Desert News report, legislators in Utah enjoy a 90% reelection rate. The rate is similar at the national level, where in addition to a high reelection rate they enjoy benefits such as money for free mail that can be used for campaigning. An example of such a case is Senator Orrin Hatch who served for over 30 years as Utah’s senator. Term limits will help combat this advantage by limiting the number of terms an incumbent could run for office and by allowing others to face off in elections devoid of incumbents.

 

-         Promote a Citizen Focused Government: Term limits will promote a citizen focused government. Our current lack of term limits for many elected officials in Utah and at the national level encourage officials to focus on campaigning and their political careers instead of the people. Officials who are term limited and know when they will exist office will be more likely to listen to and respond to the needs and demands of citizens. These officials will not be consumed by the task of continually running for office or courting wealthy donors or groups to sponsor their campaign. Officials will be able to focus on the common good of the community instead of the good of the politician.  

 

-         Reduce the Influence of Special Interests and Lobbying: Elected officials should and must be accountable only to the voters. It is the responsibility of an elected official to represent their constituents instead of courting special interest and lobbying groups who can provide large donations in exchange for pushing a policy or an agenda. Money from special interests and lobbying groups typically go towards influencing those who are likely to win, which in our current system is the incumbent. The longer an elected official is in office, the stronger their ties to special interests and lobbyists become. Term limits will help decrease the influence of special interests and lobbyists on elected officials by reducing the number of incumbents and their chance to build these relationships.

 

-         New Ideas and Faces: Term limits will also help to produce new ideas and increase turnover. By term limiting government officials, new government officials will be able to develop and try new ideas instead of being stuck in the mindset of “how things have always been done”. Term limits will also help to increase turnover by providing new officials. This will disrupt the seniority system and allow new individuals to assume positions of leadership and responsibility more quickly.

 

Term limits will help promote a limited system of government that will place the people before the politician. Utah must find a way to institute term limits for their elected state officials, US congressional representatives, and US senators. Government officials who are term-limited will be able to focus on the people and fulfilling the duties of their elected office instead preparing for the next campaign. Term limits will help to reduce corruption and the influence of special interest groups and lobbyists on elected officials.