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30.3.09

Term limits for all LA elected officials needs enactment

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, meaning that an effort to place term limits on all Louisiana elected officials deserves enactment into the state’s Constitution.

HB 84 prefiled by state Rep. Simone Champagne would put three-term limits on every elective office, state and local, across the state, except for those offices already with shorter limits (at the state level applying only to the governor). It would not change the length of terms, meaning, for example, that a state Supreme Court justice could serve as many as 30 years (if mandatory retirement doesn’t stop a sitting justice prior to running for another term), and it would be only on consecutive terms.

Term limitation has been a part of Louisiana’s office-holding environment throughout its history under the 1974 (current) Constitution (and the preceding 1921 one as well). The governor always faced the two-consecutive-term limit, legislators were added in beginning in 1996, and last year members of many boards including those elected to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Public Service commissioners were included. Additionally, hundreds of local offices scattered around the state also have limitations.

The theory behind it is that officials who stay too long in office, even if with the approval of the electorate, eventually gain too much power that can be used to perpetuate their reigns which decreases their accountability to the people. It makes perfect logical sense if that is believed valid through its application to one office, it holds true for all offices and thereby ought to be applied to them as well.

Opponents of limits snort about how the electorate serves as a limitation mechanism and to “artificially” eliminate choices for voters tramples on democracy. But the goal of a representative democracy is to ensure that all interests are represented in policy-making, and that does not demand that the most popular individuals be the ones elected to serve. In fact, it is downright presumptuous to assume that an incumbent must be definition the single most qualified and capable person of performing the representation task; talent pools are such that multiple qualified individuals will exist in any jurisdiction who would do well in this job. Therefore, this slight limitation on democratic choice is justified because it will produce leaders as good if not better than those limited, while reducing the risk that power aggrandizement will harm the body politic.

And it stands a decent chance of succeeding, since legislators themselves already are affected and may take the attitude that if they can do it, so should everybody else. The people have responded with affirmative votes every time these kinds of amendments have been offered, as well. Let’s hope that trend continues in this instance.

1 comment:

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