Opponents say term limits destroy “institutional knowledge.”
Imagine legislatures where unsophisticated solons blindly fashion public policies lacking any knowledge of the pluses or minuses of past legislation.
Well . . . actually that explanation bears a striking resemblance to the status quo in our career-dominated Congress. Who wants that?
Now comes an interesting real-world example of such institutional memory: term limits itself.
Back in 1991, residents of Jacksonville, Florida, petitioned a limit of two consecutive terms for city council members onto the ballot — after the city council voted not to place it before voters. When voters had their say, a very loud 82 percent endorsed term limits.
The Florida Times Union called it a “landslide decision.”
That was 26 years ago.* Last month, Councilman Matt Schellenberg proposed that the voter-enacted two-term limit should be replaced by a more politician-friendly three-term limit. He wants to stay in office for 12 years, rather than just eight.
“I think we restrict democracy when we put limits on us,” he declared. “I find the position of being on the council for 12 years is a perfect number . . .”
That’s when Councilman John Crescimbeni offered a dose of outside-the-institution memory, explaining that council members who voted against placing term limits on that 1991 ballot were run over.
“Six of the ten people who voted against [term limits] didn’t come back to office,” Crescimbeni warned. “If you want to push the green button tonight, I suspect that’s going to seal your fate.”
Suddenly, the city council decided to push off making any decision . . . until this week’s meeting. **
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* A new poll commissioned by U.S. Term Limits shows that Jacksonville voters oppose weakening their term limits law by a better than four-to-one margin.
** Your displeasure can be communicated to the Jacksonville council by calling (904) 630-1377.