Michigan Legislators Spurn the People on Term Limits

Jeff Tillman, a citizen activist in Michigan who uses a wooden trojan horse to fight for term limits.

We’ve stumbled upon the biggest polling blunder since Brexit and President Trump.

In its new report “Fractured Trust: Lost Faith in State Government and How to Restore it,” the Center for Michigan released unscientific polling from 125 “community conversation” meetings it conducted throughout the state, which showed that 64 percent of respondents wanted to weaken or get rid of Michigan’s term limits.

In the same report, the Center also released a scientific poll showing that 69 percent of Michiganders want to keep term limits or make them stronger.

This raises the question: who the heck was attending those town hall meetings, and why were they so unrepresentative of the people at large?

The divide on term limits in Michigan has always been stark. Anyone at the nexus of government and big business typically hates the law while citizens adore it and want it applied to Congress.

Thankfully, though, the Michigan Constitution provides a handy guide to let us know how to resolve this dispute. It’s not buried deep within the document, either. Line one of the state Constitution reads “all political power is inherent in the people.”

That means the people of Michigan are the bosses of state legislators. Since the people overwhelmingly support term limits, attacks on term limits are acts of insubordination. Like in any work environment, defiance shouldn’t be tolerated, much less allowed to decide policy.

Despite the capitol chatter, term limits have achieved their aims in Michigan. While career politicians in states like Illinois and Massachusetts run unopposed over 50 percent of the time, every single Michigan legislator has been opposed in the last two election cycles. Thanks to term limits, Michigan also sees remarkably high rates of open seat races and incumbents who face primary challengers.

The Michigan Legislature received the best score out of all 50 states on the Lucy Burns Institute’s 2016 Electoral Competitiveness Index. That vindicates term limits advocates who’ve always said their goal was to make elections more competitive.

Term limits have not ushered in the doom and gloom predicted by critics. In the 2016 “Rich States, Poor States” analysis performed by economist Art Laffer and the American Legislative Exchange Council, Michigan ranked higher than its average peer state in economic outlook.

Last I checked, Michigan state representatives never run for re-election on the platform of “I’m inexperienced and cannot find the bathrooms,” though they always cite inexperience as a reason for gutting term limits.

Former State Rep. Lisa Lyons, who has called for lengthening Michigan’s term limits, highlighted her accomplishments on her website while running for a third term in 2014.

“I worked on reforms that made Michigan’s tax code fair,” she wrote.

“I worked to pass a structurally balanced budget, paid down long-term debt and put money away in the state’s savings account, all four months before it was due, and all without raising taxes,” she added.

Those sound like a lot of good deeds for someone who believes term limits produce know-nothing legislators. I suppose the other 109 members must be the greenhorns.

Fortunately, the legislature pined for by Michigan insiders – the one with no term limits – is not a utopia that only exists in dreams. It’s a real thing called the United States Congress.

Their work isn’t better. In fact, most Americans believe every member of Congress should be fired right now. Endless tenure has only produced more partisanship, division and half-hearted policy in Washington. Members are so consumed with fundraising and re-election that problems rarely get solved.

Is that really what Michigan’s power brokers want to bring to Lansing?
Instead of working to bring Washington’s problems to Michigan, perhaps these insiders can help put Michigan-style term limits on members of Congress.

Now that’s something every community can get behind.

Nick Tomboulides is the Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits

About Nick Tomboulides