LD 182 (An Act to Eliminate Term Limits for Legislators)
By Regina Coppens
A hearing on LD 182 was held before the State and Local Government Committee (SLG) on March 16. Rep. John Martin from Eagle Lake is the sponsor and was the first person to testify in favor of the bill. “Two-thirds of the legislators have been in office two years or less,” he said. He added that there are a lot of ‘rethreads’ in office, meaning there are many legislators who have been term-limited out only to run again for a seat in the other chamber. He added that the downside to this turnover is a lack of experienced legislators.
Polly Ward from the LWVME Advocacy Committee delivered the League’s testimony in favor of the bill. Here are a few points she made:
- term limits dilute the effective performance of the Legislature and weaken the Legislature’s role in crafting sound policy solutions to complex problems.
- policy expertise formerly reposed in Legislative Committees has been ceded to Executive Branch department heads and partisan professional staff.
- House elections have become less competitive
- the Senate has become more influential.
Former legislator John Lund from Hallowell also testified in support of eliminating term limits. He said that term limits and the lack of experienced legislators have crippled the ability of the legislature to carry out their duties. He added that it has also altered the balance between the executive branch and the Legislature.
Richard Bennett from Oxford was the only person who spoke in opposition to the bill. He said that term limits have strengthened the Legislature by having representatives with real world experience. (Others attribute the diversity of our legislature, not to term limits, but to the implementation of Clean Elections.) He also said that overturning term limits should be done by a referendum vote, as it was when term limits was passed.
The Committee asked questions and made comments in regard to the fact that the bill establishing term limits was passed by a referendum. They also voiced concerns about the loss of institutional memory with term limits. There was discussion about the idea of limiting the term of leadership positions in the legislature instead of eliminating term limits.
You can bet there will be plenty of news coverage on this controversial bill. Here is MPBN’s radio piece on it from March 16.