00:03 Philip Blumel: States are taking the initiative away. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of October 26, 2020.
00:16 Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
00:20 Philip Blumel: Historically, more term limits have been imposed in this country by the initiative process than by any other method. Is it just a coincidence then that many states started chipping away at the initiative process following the wave of successful state level tournaments initiatives in the 1990s? This assault on the initiative process continues in 2020, with an anti-initiative amendments appearing on ballots in three states next month. Let’s discuss this ongoing story with Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director of US Term Limits. Hey, Nick.
00:52 Nick Tomboulides: Thank you, Philip. And yes, this is an important election update. As of this recording, over 60 million people have already voted in the 2020 presidential election. The eyes of the nation and even the world are focused on the race between Trump and Biden. But that also means people are distracted, and when people are a little bit distracted, that can create an opportunity for some sneaky political behavior. And I’m paraphrasing Shakespeare a little bit, but mischief is a foot in the year 2020, particularly with some of these constitutional amendments going on in the States. As you said it, it’s happening in three key states right now: Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota. The political elite in these states are not attacking term limits directly, but they are attacking term limits indirectly. They are scheming to dismantle the citizen initiative process.
01:46 Nick Tomboulides: The citizen initiative process is what allows people to put issues on the ballot directly with petitions. For that reason, it has always been the life blood of term limits. For example, when state politicians in Florida got drunk on power in the early 1990s, there was no chance they would ever term limit themselves. So it was the people of Florida who stood up and demanded term limits. We collected hundreds of thousands of signatures to put it on the ballot and get it done. That is the citizen initiative in a nutshell. It is a pathway; it is a safety valve to make things happen when our leaders fail in their duty. But in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota, constitutional amendments are on the ballot this year, pushed by either legislators, lobbyists or both, which would basically take the citizen initiative away.
02:41 Lawrence W. Reed: In Florida, the problem is Amendment 4. It would require constitutional amendments to pass twice to become part of the Florida constitution. It’s the latest in a long line of maneuvers that are designed to transfer power away from the people of Florida and into the hands of politicians in a faraway capital in Tallahassee. The citizen process in Florida is already weakened and it is wobbly. But if Amendment 4 passes, that will be the knockout punch that finishes off the initiative once and for all because no group of ordinary citizens has tens of millions of dollars available to get something on the ballot, and then fund back-to-back winning campaigns. It is hard enough to do it once. Having to do it twice would give the Tallahassee insiders with unlimited war chests all the time they need to crush term limits and crush any other issue the people want.
03:38 Nick Tomboulides: Amendment 4 is pretty ridiculous on its face when you think about it. Our politicians in Florida can win with a single vote. Bills in Tallahassee that they pass, can pass by a single vote. So why should constitutional amendments initiated by the people of Florida have to pass twice by a margin of more than 1.6 million votes? Because, as as you know, they need to pass with 60%. It’s a fundamental question of fairness. I’ll give you an example. School board term limits, it’s long overdue in Florida. We’ve talked about it on this podcast. We’ve come very close to getting it on the ballot, but the legislature refuses to budge. And if Amendment 4 passes, school board term limits will be dead and buried. Kiss ’em goodbye. We can’t give politicians, lobbyists and special interest a monopoly over the State of Florida. The people need a say. That’s why we recommend a no vote on Amendment 4.
04:36 Lawrence W. Reed: In North Dakota, Measure No. 2 is very similar to Florida’s Amendment 4. It would allow the state legislature to veto ideas that citizens put on the ballot and pass, and then force the people to do it all over again a second time. It is like Florida, forcing two votes on something, when one vote is sufficient. That’s Measure 2 in North Dakota. It makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine because the initiative process only exists to help people get around their sneaky politicians. So if you allow those sneaky politicians to veto any idea the people want, then you’ve basically killed the reason you have the initiative process in the first place. North Dakota is not a state with term limits, it’s fertile territory for getting term limits, but if Measure No. 2 passes, North Dakota will never get term limits. So if you’re in North Dakota, we recommend a no vote on Measure No. 2.
05:35 Nick Tomboulides: And that brings us last, but certainly not least, to Arkansas, home of a legislature that is so corrupt, they make Richard Nixon look like Mother Teresa. The people of Arkansas are incredible, and they deserve much better leaders than what they’ve gotten stuck with. Remember in 2014, the Arkansas Legislature duped the voting public into nearly tripling term limits from six years in one seat to 16 years. That’s the longest term limit I’ve ever heard of. The ring leader of that effort is in the orange jumpsuit caucus. Now, he went to prison for bribery. But now in 2020, the new legislature has cooked up a new scam, they’ve got Issues 2 and 3 on the ballot. Issue 2 would let state legislators who term out after 16 years, come back and serve for another 12. So that’s a joke, and the people behind it should be ashamed of themselves. That’s Issue 2.
06:33 Lawrence W. Reed: And then Issue 3 in Arkansas is the attack on their citizen initiative. It would shorten the time citizens have to collect signatures for putting amendments on the ballot, would shorten it considerably. And it would create new regulations that make it a lot harder to collect any signatures at all. The legislators there are hoping to cripple citizens’ ability and right to make any meaningful changes. But in the back of their minds, they really wanna make sure the ulterior motive, in my opinion, Phil, is to make sure citizens can never repair the term limits they lost in 2014. They want to see to it that a restoration of term limits never makes it to the ballot, and so Issue 2 and 3 in Arkansas are a true Trojan horse. Vote no on Issue 2 and Issue 3 in Arkansas.
07:22 Nick Tomboulides: And again, in these states, we feel we have a duty to keep you informed. Term limits may not be at stake directly in Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas, but they are at stake indirectly. Because if these slimeballs get rid of the initiative, that will cause irreparable harm to the Term Limits Movement. We’ve gotta stop these lousy amendments.
07:48 S?: Corruption.
07:56 Philip Blumel: Another veteran anti-term limits politician goes down, this time in North Carolina. Representative David Lewis, an 18-year veteran of the North Carolina General Assembly was charged on August 20 with two financial crimes: One, a felony and one, a misdemeanor. According to federal investigators, he illegally channeled $65,000 from a campaign bank account into a personal bank account he set up under a false name. The secondary charge was failure to file a tax return. Representative Lewis resigned from office, and under the terms of his plea deal, faces probation or up to six months in prison.
08:29 Philip Blumel: Petty corruption like this is rife in politics as in no other field. Term limits is one of the tools states and localities use to restrain the hubris and the opportunity that comes with long tenure. It is hardly surprising that Representative David Lewis, a Republican, refused to sign the US Term Limits Pledge, even though he was asked on multiple occasions. Ten years ago, Republicans promised to clean up the pool of corruption in the North Carolina state legislature that was engulfing the Democrats at the time. The Republicans won the majority, and yet, the corruption remains. Maybe the problem isn’t just one party, but, the system.
09:05 S?: Corruption. Corruption. Corruption rules their souls. Corruption. Corruption. Corruption chills our bones. Corruption.
09:23 Lawrence W. Reed: Hi, I’m Lawrence W. Reed, President Emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education. You can learn more about us at fee, F-E-E.org. At the request of my good friend, Philip Blumel, I am happy to read to you the following article, first published in May of 2001. I am the author. The title is, Why Term Limits?
09:51 Lawrence W. Reed: Early in the 1990s a grassroots movement to limit the terms of elected officials in various public offices blossomed nationwide. Term-limit ballot initiatives passed in at least 19 states, usually by landslide margins. The US Supreme Court threw out all state-imposed term limits on federal positions in 1995, but those for state and local offices were affirmed.
10:20 Lawrence W. Reed: The term-limits movement has slowed in recent years, and in some states the political establishment is fighting back. Quietly in most cases, lawmakers are starting to talk up the idea of extending the length of terms voters choose to limit, or to repeal the restrictions altogether. But the reasons the term-limit concept caught on in the first place remain as potent as ever.
10:45 Lawrence W. Reed: It was Benjamin Franklin who summed up the best case for term limits more than two centuries ago. In his words, “In free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors. For the former to return among the latter does not degrade, but promote them.” In other words, when politicians know they must return to ordinary society and live under the laws they passed while they were in government, at least some of them will think more carefully about the long-term effects of the programs they support. Their end-all will not be re-election because that option will not be available.
11:22 Lawrence W. Reed: Nationally, the notion of the “citizen-legislator” remains a popular vision. The public is justifiably cynical about the hollow promises of so many lifelong professional politicians who are often purchased with special-interest money. Opponents of term limits are frequently the same interests who milk the government for all they can get, such as defense contractors in Washington or the teachers unions in state capitals.
11:50 Lawrence W. Reed: Opponents charge that term limits are inherently antidemocratic, that people should be free to elect to office whomever they want and that voters inherently have the power to limit terms simply by voting incumbents out. But judging by the huge support that term limits have usually won at the ballot box, and still enjoy in most local polls, large numbers of citizens feel that a political system without limits is a stacked deck. Any system that allows incumbents to amass so much power and attention in office that challengers find it very difficult, if not impossible, to win is surely in need of a corrective.
12:30 Lawrence W. Reed: Term limit advocates properly point out that we already fix all sorts of restrictions on who can and who cannot hold office, no matter how popular they may be, from age and residency requirements to two four-year terms for the president. Indeed, it isn’t widely understood that term limits is an old concept. With regard to municipal offices, it dates back at least to 1851, when the Indiana State Constitution imposed them for almost every elected county office.
13:01 Lawrence W. Reed: A 1990 report from the Cato Institute offered an intriguing response to the, “We don’t need term limits because we can simply vote the bums out,” argument. Author, Einer Elhauge, states, “Districts with highly senior legislators often impose externalities, burdens such as higher taxes, on other districts by securing the enactment of provisions the other districts dislike, either on ideological grounds or because they bear the financial cost. Voting your bum out is not a solution when what you wanna do is oust the other district’s bums. For that, you need term limits, which oust the other district’s more senior bums and thus strongly increase equality and legislative representation.”
13:50 Lawrence W. Reed: Without long-term legislators according to another anti-term limit argument, inexperienced legislators won’t be able to control the permanent bureaucracy. Well, that’s a red herring. Legislators ultimately control the purse and the power to control the bureaucrats anytime they want to. Now, we must not overlook the unholy alliances built up between bureaucracies and long-term legislators. Surely, the experience of living as a private citizen under the rules and taxes that one voted for as a legislator is just as valuable and instructive, if not more so, than the experience of cooking up those rules and taxes in the first place. Term limits have been approved almost everywhere they’ve been on the ballot because concerned citizens see them as a positive structural reform, a necessary step to change the incentives of legislator, so they would think more about the good of their states and country and less about their next campaign.
14:50 Lawrence W. Reed: Those citizens want to ensure a regular supply of fresh blood and new ideas in legislative bodies. They wanna open the system to more people from a variety of professions. They wanna make public officials less responsive to organized, well-healed lobbies and more interested in serving the welfare of society at large. But what about that paramount issue of great interest to many Americans, the issue of individual liberty? Do term limits enhance or detract from its protection? For sure, people in a free and democratic society ultimately get the government they vote for. Term limits cannot guarantee either individual liberty or good government if voters with bad ideas replace bad legislators with other bad people.
15:38 Lawrence W. Reed: Ben Franklin may have supported term limits, but he also believed with John Philpot Curran that in any event, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” However, the evidence suggests that at the margin, term limits are helpful to the cause of individual liberty. Elhauge’s report that I quoted earlier show that term limits lessen the influence of seniority. His research demonstrated that long-term lawmakers from both parties vote for more bureaucracy than do lawmakers who have been in office for shorter times. Term limits lessen the ability of lawmakers to develop cozy deals with either bureaucracies or special interests that seek to get something from government at everyone else’s expense.
16:27 Lawrence W. Reed: Stephen Moore, writing for The Cato Institute, says that an examination of the voting behavior of Congressmen reveals that on a wide range of liberty-related issues, such as not raising the minimum wage, or defunding the National Endowment for the Arts, or closing down the Legal Services Corporation, or cutting taxes, junior members are less likely to vote, to tax, spend, regulate and otherwise stick Washington’s nose in our private affairs, than are the old bulls.
16:58 Lawrence W. Reed: Term limits do not yet exist for members of Congress. Do we need a reminder that long-term pols with lots of experience in Washington have blessed Americans with trillions in debt, and a federal government that sucks more and more from our wallets year after year after year? It says a lot that virtually every group that lobbies for more government power and wealth redistribution opposes term limits. When they buy a lawmaker, they want him to stay bought and stick around for a while. For more articles like this, check the FEE website, fee.org, or check my website, which is lawrencewreed.com.
17:41 Scott Tillman: Hi, this is Scott Tillman, the National Field Director with US Term Limits. There are two ways to amend the US Constitution. One method, Congress proposes the amendment, it is then ratified by the states. The second way, state legislature send resolutions to Congress requesting an amendment convention, and that any amendment coming from that convention is sent to the states for ratification. As part of our plan to term limit Congress, we ask candidates for Congress and candidates for state legislature to sign pledges to support a term limits amendment.
18:11 Scott Tillman: This cycle, we’ve had over 2100 candidates sign pledges for term limits. Over 425 Congressional candidates signed the pledge, and 165 of those will be on the general election ballot November 3rd. 1700 candidates for state legislature signed the pledge, and over 1000 of those will be on the general election ballot November 3rd. Please follow us on Facebook to find out about the winners. Thank you for all your help this cycle reaching candidates. Now we can use your help contacting legislators and asking them to co-sponsor our legislation. Reach out to us on Facebook for more information.
18:47 S?: This is a public service announcement.
18:54 Philip Blumel: Going into the home stretch, US Senate challenger, Amy McGrath in Kentucky continues to hammer away at Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, with her most popular position: Congressional term limits. Here she is interviewed on WNKY 40 in Bowling Green on October 21st.
19:11 S?: This morning, we’re joined by Democratic US Senate hopeful, Amy McGrath, who is vying for the seat currently occupied by Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Thank you for joining us.
19:22 Amy McGrath: Hey, good to be with you this morning.
19:25 S?: Let’s dive in. You have criticized the amount of time your opponent has been in office. Where do you stand on term limits?
19:32 Amy McGrath: [chuckle] I’m 100% for term limits. Look, this isn’t a red or blue thing, and it’s just what we need to do. I do not believe that somebody should be in the same seats in Washington DC for 42 years. That is just way too long. Look at where it’s gotten us. Look at the fact that we now have a Senator who represents Washington DC and the DC swamp more than he represents us, incapable. And I think this is what you saw on the debate a week ago. Someone who just makes excuses. There’s no solutions. It’s all talk about partisanship. It’s all talk about DC and not about Kentucky, and enough is enough. We need people who come from all walks of life to represent us in the US Senate, get things back again. That’s why I like term limits, have a plan. People who don’t look at everything through a political lens, but look at it through the lens of being a wife, being a mom, being somebody that’s been in the military, and has been able to get things done there. Somebody that’s gonna be focused on healthcare, somebody that knows their community and their state. And gosh, you saw a real disconnect a week ago in Senator McConnell, and I believe it’s because he’s been there way too long.
20:52 Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. Politicians in Arkansas have placed two scams on the ballot for November: Amendment 2 and Amendment 3. One is a direct assault on term limits, and the other is an assault on the initiative process that made term limits possible in that state. For this week’s action item, we are asking Arkansans to go to termlimits.com/noon2. It looks like noon2. There, you will find a great Facebook video explaining the amendments that you could forward to your friends. There’s also a downloadable flyer for distribution. That’s termlimits.com/noon2. Thank you. We’ll be back next week.
21:35 Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms podcast.
21:56 Stacey Selleck: USTL.