I don’t remember much about the ballot I cast in 1992, but I do know I checked “yes” for term limits.
It was time to end the lifetime politician. Keep the fresh ideas flowing. Flush out corruption. Return government to the people.
Talk about true believer. I shared my youthful enthusiasm with basically anyone within a 5-meter radius.
The only person I couldn’t convince was my then-girlfriend, whose counterargument I ignored, which makes what I’m about to write that much harder.
I was wrong.
Sure, we flushed out “the old timers.” We’ve pulled the handle in the state House three times over. In the Senate, we’ll give the chamber its second big flush in 2010. By 2011, we’ll have more fresh blood in the Capitol than Sparrow Hospital’s newborn unit.
But the party is over. Term limits need to go.
There’s no need to get cute about it. Forget about extending term limits or combining the time served between the House and Senate. Let’s just face it: We tried an experiment. It’s been fun. But it’s a flop.
This isn’t about experience. Quite frankly, if the entire House and Senate were freshmen, we’d probably all be better served. This new House class of 44 is the most energetic, go-get-’em class I’ve seen.
Unfortunately, in four years they’ll be burned-out third-term lame ducks, scrambling to find jobs.
Some will look at higher office — maybe the state Senate, governor, Congress. Some will look back to the city council or county commission.
Others will cash in their chips with their favorite special interest for a lobbying job.
Still, others won’t bother to wait until their final two-year term to make the leap.
History shows that nobody in Lansing is more disconnected to the job at hand than a lawmaker whose shot clock is expiring.
Inevitably, their primary occupation becomes taking care of No. 1.
Take the sad state of affairs in the state Senate. Nearly half of the Republicans (who are in power, by the way) are already running for jobs that won’t be filled until November 2010.
The brazen Sen. Michelle McManus, R-Lake Leelanau, actually asked to be taken off some committees at about the same time she launched her secretary of state campaign.
One of her opponents sat immediately next to her during the governor’s budget presentation — Sen. Cameron Brown, R-Fawn River Township. If they said a peep to one another in the 90 minutes I stood behind them, then I guess I mustve missed it.
Then, there’s the lively Sen. Bruce Patterson, of Canton, the leading GOP candidate for attorney general. That wouldn’t be a serious problem except his main competition for the GOP nomination is his caucus leader, Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.
Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, the Dems’ go-to-girl for AG in ’10, kicked the ambers on that smoldering feud when in a Senate floor speech last week she singled out Patterson for being on the right side of the drug immunity issue. Bishop is on the other side.
You’d think the House would be more connected, but Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, still hasn’t ruled out making a run for the governors mansion against the current administration’s point-person on legislative issues, Lt. Gov. John Cherry.
Meanwhile, term-limited House Minority Leader Kevin Elsenheimer has compiled a staff that looks amazingly similar to the one that worked for the Senate majority leader of 2003. Um, wonder what he’s thinking?
Our term-limited attorney general, Mike Cox, and our term-limited secretary of state, Terri Lynd Land, both Republicans want to be governor. The tension between them is escalating.
And all the while, our term-limited governor says she’s not interested in a Washington job, but she’s spending so much time there with her new national media buddies, she might as well take up a second residence.
Let’s face it. Politicians want to be politicians. You want to remain in your career field. They do too. We can flush them out of office, but they’ll inevitably end up in another.
Politicians want to remain in politics. Let’s at least give them the option to stay in their current job for as long as they remain effective.
If they’re no good, we’re smart enough to take care of it. (See: Former U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg).
Because from what I see, this perennial game of musical chairs just isn’t working.
(Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.)