Nearing the Finish Line

Yes, there is still a little over two weeks left this session – or 6 working days. A few big issues have yet to see the stage. However, there is another cloud looming over the Capitol – term limits. Ahead of the impassioned farewell speeches set for Day 60, I politely ask that you set aside preconceived opinions about term limits as a concept so we can take a moment to assess the landscape.

Here are the Senators that are leaving after this session:

  • Kathy Campbell (Chair, Health and Human Services Committee)
  • Tanya Cook (Chair, Planning Committee)
  • Colby Coash
  • Mike Gloor (Chair, Revenue Committee)
  • Ken Haar
  • Galen Hadley (Speaker of the Legislature)
  • Beau McCoy
  • Heath Mello (Chair, Appropriations Committee)
  • Kate Sullivan (Chair, Education Committee)
  • Ken Schilz (Chair, Natural Resources Committee)

Technically, their terms end next January when the newly elected Senators are sworn in. But baring a special session being called, these waning days are their last moments in the body. Unless, of course, they sit out a term and come back in full force like Ernie Chambers. That is an entirely different discussion and frankly – deserves a lot more attention than a blog.

For now, let’s just reflect on what the turnover of term limits means for the process. In broad terms, what do term limits mean for different populations? Well, as with all things, there are two sides to this coin:

For the lobby/advocates:

Term limits mean that the investment spent building relationships and educating senators on issues has an expiration date. However, term limits allow for, in most cases, this group to have more institutional knowledge than the senators and every four years there are new opportunities to find a champion for your cause.

For the legislative staff:

Term limits mean job insecurity, slightly awkward professional competition, and an influx of more political hacks…but I would venture to say that the hacks have always been around. The plus side? Well, experienced staff can bring much value to a freshman senator through institutional knowledge and provide a head start – skipping the basics and getting straight to the issues.

For the constituents:

This one is tricky. Term limits are an opportunity to have fresh choices in an election. But, if you have a representative who is in a leadership position, responsive to your needs, and effective in general, you lose when they are termed out.

For the political parties:

To put it simply: More money, more work, more opportunity and more involvement in general.

For the Senators:

Some would stay forever if allowed – like the guest who doesn’t want to leave the party after the host has put on their pajamas, dropped hints about their morning plans, and essentially put all of the liquor away. For others, it is a welcome end to a successful run at it, and for some I’m sure term limits serve as an appropriate jump start to ask – what’s next?

Agree or disagree with term limits, the reality is the group of Senators listed above are leaving significant leadership gaps to be filled and issue areas that will need a new champion. We are not only nearing the end of this session, we are nearing the end of the makeup of the Legislature as we know it.

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