Dr. David Valentine seems surprised by what he calls “The Unintended Consequences of Term Limits.” Valentine, a tenured expert on legislative matters, served as director of the Missouri Senate’s Division of Research from 1985 to 2001 and is now Associate Director for Public Service at the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri. According to his research, limiting the terms of Missouri legislators has led to — of all things — legislators serving less time in office.
Who’d have guessed?
“Over the course of ten years,” Valentine’s report found, “the average tenure for Missouri House Representatives dropped by almost two-thirds, from a little over five years to two years.” The average tenure for a state senator dropped from nine years to three.
So, the good Doctor has diagnosed the legislature as less knowledgeable due to term limits: “Tenure can be viewed as a surrogate for knowledge,” Valentine explains, “about state government, the legislative process and the chamber in which members serve.”
In layman’s terms, representatives are serving less time, and thus they know less . . . about the legislature. No evidence or tests necessary; take it as a given.
But could some other knowledge be of import to legislating, to governing? Like the knowledge of running a business and how laws and regulations impact business? Or could teaching experience provide insight into education policy? Or working in health care or agriculture or . . . well, you get the point.
But Dr. Valentine doesn’t. He’s still overcoming his shock that limiting tenure produces less tenure.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.