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Don't extend term limits, Michigan's 'citizen Legislature' works just fine

ALG Editor's Note: In the following featured commentary, Michigan State Representative Tom McMillin shows once again that there are no lengths that politicians will go to keep their power. In this case, McMillin argues against the idea that “institutional knowledge” is necessary to run a legislature:


Commentary: Don't extend term limits, Michigan's 'citizen Legislature' works just fine

By Rep. Tom McMillin

There is yet another attempt afoot by politicians in Lansing to undermine the will of Michigan voters by changing -- and extending -- term limits.

The arguments of these politicians are usually centered on this notion that "institutional knowledge" is lost when state representatives can "only" stay six years or state senators "only" eight years. Many claim that by the time they figure out how Lansing works, they are term-limited.

Let's analyze this. If you are fortunate enough to get a new job in this economy, could you in good faith turn to your boss and say, "You know, it may take me a few years to figure out how to do my job?" I don't think very many would take that risk. But those who do would likely be out of a job pretty quickly.

I can tell you as a freshman state representative that, with a little effort and some God-given knowledge, figuring out "how Lansing works" doesn't take very long. We need legislators who aren't looking for excuses to be able to do their job. They just need to make the tough decisions necessary to rightsize our burdensome government. Besides, the "institutional knowledge" excuse makes it appear that legislators are being run by the "institution" known as Lansing bureaucrats. The fact is that the men and women we send to Lansing, our representatives, should tell the bureaucrats how things are going to be done to best serve our citizens, not the other way around. Yes, this takes leadership. Surely that's not too much to ask of our elected leaders.

Thanks to term limits, the purpose of democracy is preserved. All citizens are assured that a spirited primary and/or general election will regularly give them good alternatives.

Because of term-limits, the days where a few long-serving legislators are powerful kings and princes are gone. Gone are the days when long-serving politicians always get 95 percent of PAC and lobbyist campaign money and get re-elected 99 percent of the time. Very few current legislators would be serving in Lansing if it weren't for the current term-limits law.

Term limits have helped our state to bring in fresh blood, keep government honest and allow for the free flow of new ideas. It would be a shame to change that now, when new ideas are needed most. Term limits keep Lansing a "citizen's Legislature," and I firmly believe that we need to keep our current term-limits law in place.

State Rep. Tom McMillin, R- Rochester Hills, is in his first term representing Michigan's 45th Legislative district.

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