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October 11, 2011

Send Them All Home

Shawn Burns

Former President Harry S Truman believed that the presidential term limits established under the 22nd Amendment should be applied to all federal officials. Congressional term limits would eliminate the "fossilization of the key committees," according to Mr. Truman.


President Truman also believed that term limits would "help cure senility and seniority – both terrible legislative diseases."


Apparently President Truman isn’t alone. According to national polls, Americans overwhelming support term limits. Taking it one step further, most Americans still support term limits if it means their current senator or representative would be booted out of office.


Term limits is an issue that crosses party lines. National polling shows that regardless of affiliation, people from both parties support term limits. The number vary, but according to some polls, upward of 70 percent of people from both parties answer that they want term limits in order to get rid of entrenched, career politicians.


Newspaper Columnist George Will once said that "term limits would increase the likelihood that people who come to Congress would anticipate returning to careers in the private sector and therefore would, as they legislate, think about what it is like to live under the laws they make."


Right here at home in Maryland, we have a group of long serving members of Congress. Steny Hoyer has been in Congress since 1981. Both Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski have been in public office since 1987. In fact, on March 17, 2012, Senator Mikulski will become the longest-serving female member in the history of the United State Congress. And Congressman Roscoe Bartlett has been in office since 1993.


Some of the most populous cities in America impose term limits on the mayor and other elected city officials. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia are just a few of our larger cities that believe in the wisdom of imposing term limits on politicians.


Thirty-seven states impose term limits on the office of the governor.


All of the following states impose term limits ranging from six to 12 years of service on their state senators and delegates: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming.


Currently Maryland has no term limits on elected members of the General Assembly.


President of the Maryland Senate Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr., was first elected to office in 1974 and has been the Senate president since 1987.


Sen. Norman Stone of Baltimore County was first elected to office in 1966.


Maryland’s Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch of Anne Arundel County has been in office since 1986.


Del. Adelaide Eckardt has been in office since 1994. While Dels. Hattie Harrison and Wade Kach have been in office since 1973 and 1974.


This list of Maryland politicians is only a taste of the long list of career politicians we currently have in Annapolis.


When will we get some new blood with fresh ideas to serve as our elected officials? Why are all of these people re-elected over and over again with little or no opposition? Is it because they are doing such a marvelous job for us? Or is it because – as statistics show – incumbents are overwhelmingly re-elected because they have name recognition and many times more so than their challengers?


"The natural cure for an ill administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men," said Alexander Hamilton.


Does the possibility exist that an actual good elected official will be lost as a result of term limits? Absolutely. But, if that person is already this involved in their community, they won’t have any trouble finding a way to continue to be involved.


The bigger reason for supporting term limits is that it eliminates the career, entrenched politician who is more concerned with the power and all of the perks that come with the office, as opposed to fulfilling the duty of their position to work in the best interest of those they supposedly represent.


Arkansas Assemblyman Dan Greenberg hit the nail on the head when he said, "It is difficult to overstate the extent to which term limits would reform Congress. Term limits are supported by large majorities of most American demographic groups; and they are opposed primarily by incumbent politicians and the wealthy special interest groups, which depend on them to accomplish their own goals. Term limits would ameliorate many of America's most serious political problems by eliminating most incumbent election advantages, ensuring more congressional turnover, securing more independent congressional judgment, and reducing re-election related incentives for wasteful government spending. The recent term limits phenomenon is a tribute to public involvement in politics and is one of the few reforms devised and implemented by people who live beyond the Beltway. It is substantive, not cosmetic; both allies and enemies concede that congressional service terms would create favorable and fundamental change in American politics."


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