term limits

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“Deceptive” Charge “Misleading”

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Many politicians serve as powerful arguments for term limits. Arkansas State Senator Jon Woods rivals the best.

Sen. Woods (R-Springdale) and State Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) authored a 22-page, 7,000-word constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot. They say Issue 3 is about ethics and transparency.

You decide.

Woods and Sabin threw together various ethics provisions and then stuck in a gutting of term limits. Their ballot title reads it is “establishing term limits” — without bothering to inform voters that it doubles how long legislators can stay in the Senate and more than doubles the House limit — to a whopping 16 years!

This week, Arkansas Term Limits debuted TV ads alerting the public to the scam, charging that legislators have “pursued a campaign of silence . . . letting the deceptive ballot title do their work,” so that “when Arkansas voters go to the polls there will be no mention of the doubling of term[s].”

The unrepentant Sen. Woods says that it is “misleading” to call his Issue 3 deceptive. Meanwhile, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that, after asking if Woods’s ballot language wasn’t indeed deceptive: “Woods said he doesn’t know.”

The senator’s response to the Arkansas GOP Convention’s nearly unanimous resolution against Issue 3? “You just have a couple of nuts that got together on a Saturday that were out of touch with Arkansans and passed a silly resolution that in no way reflects the point of view of all Republicans in Arkansas.”

Perhaps Democratic politicians are smarter. Democratic co-author Sabin is nowhere to be found in news coverage of Issue 3, likely hiding under his bed.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Grand Rapids’ Grand Alliance

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Two incredible activists in Grand Rapids, Michigan, have achieved the impossible. Through their hard work in gathering over 10,000 voter signatures on a petition, Rina Baker and Bonnie Burke have united big business and big labor in perfect harmony.

Union bosses and the bigs of biz are now funding a united campaign.

Their ubiquitous mailers speak against the “hijacking of our local democratic process” and sinister forces trying to “change our city charter, erode local control and silence your voice,” warning Grand Rapids residents: “Don’t let your vote be shredded.”

Shredded votes? What specific issue are they talking about?

Well, this well-funded business/labor campaign has purposely left out two words that, if uttered, would obliterate their entire effort.

Those two little words? Term limits.

The law that Rina Baker and Bonnie Burke have petitioned onto the ballot, for a public vote? An eight-year limit for mayor and council members.

Nothing brings powerful special interests together like fear of term limits.

The president of the United States is limited to eight years, but Andy Johnston, the Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of government affairs, argues that, “Particularly at the local level, it takes time to learn the ins and outs of city government.”

“In politics you develop relationships with different people,” explains Kent-Ionia Labor Council President Sean Egan. “When you continually replace good politicians for the sake of having new people, you lose the wisdom and experience and you end up with policy created by other groups.”

You mean policy supported by folks “other” than big business and big labor?

Oh, my!

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Corrupt Craft

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Some political opponents win your respect, even if not your agreement. Others … well, not so much.

Earlier this week, a publication called Arkansas Business editorialized against Issue 3 on the Natural State’s November ballot, calling it “a freakish hybrid, a gambit to trick voters into expanding term limits for state legislators.”

This constitutional amendment was proposed with overwhelming support from state legislators, who designed it to hoodwink voters into gutting their term limits. The measure hides that consequential change — from six years in the House to 16 years and from eight years in the Senate to 16 years — inside a so-called “ethics” amendment.

The ballot wording only tells voters that the measure is “setting” term limits, which Arkansas Business correctly points out “conveys something close to the opposite of what the amendment would do,” adding “it’s certainly misleading.”

Now, Arkansas Business is no fan of term limits. The editorial concludes, “Arguments can be made for each of these proposals [in Issue 3], including longer term limits.… But we can’t endorse the current form, as much as we’d like to.”

Arkansas Business seems clearly offended by the deception. How endearingly unsophisticated!

Meanwhile, more elite opinion applauds the brilliance of the scheme, the amazing skill of these politicians applying their sneaky technique.

“Arkansas voters soundly rejected term-limit changes in 2004,” reports Governing magazine, paraphrasing University of Arkansas Professor Janine Parry, “but this time proponents craftily inserted their language into a broad package that, among other things, prohibits corporate contributions to candidates and lobbyist gifts to elected officials.”

“Craftily”?

What on earth is their craft? Fraud?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Term Limits: Let’s Keep ’em

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Former Clinton Treasury secretary Larry Summers proposes that we switch from an eight-year, two-term limit for the union’s presidency to a six-year, single-term limit. He contends that by chucking the president’s second term, we can maybe prevent such gridlock and scandal as tends to especially afflict those second terms.

Six years is a long time to be stuck with an abysmal president, though.

And when the policies that a president imposes or encourages in his first term turn out to be an endless horror show — I’ll name no names here except Obama and Obamacare, IRS’s ideological targeting, NSA’s surveillance of us all, millions in tax dollars flung at bankrupt eco-firms like Solyndra, etc. — the more gridlock the better, seems to me. For it nobly reduces the extent to which we can be kicked in the teeth.

And I don’t like being kicked in the teeth.

However, throw in a national recall power so Americans can boot incumbents from office when they’re fed up with them, and I might accept that single six-year term, Professor.

In reply to Summers, some pundits argue that we should just drop presidential term limits altogether. We have heard the suggestion before. But I agree with blogger Matthew Dickinson. He argues in a piece for Christian Science Monitor that whatever the abuses plaguing term two, these must pale in comparison to the problems which flow from enabling presidents-for-life. Their abuses of power, around the world, are legion, and nigh unstoppable.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Legislators, Tramps and Thieves

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

In the closing days of Arkansas’s 2013 legislative session, solons of the Natural State surreptitiously voted to put a measure on the state ballot, without fanfare or ballyhoo.

Five months later, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette finally noticed what happened, and published an editorial, “Outrage of the Year.’ It has just been reprinted. The outrage hasn’t changed. The measure would extend time in office “for state representatives from 6 to 16 years and for state senators from 8 to 16 years.”

But what an Arkansan will read on the ballot seems a tad different: “An Amendment Regulating Contributions to Candidates for State or Local Office, Barring Gifts From Lobbyists to Certain State Officials, Providing for Setting Salaries of Certain State Officials, and Setting Term Limits for Members of the General Assembly.”

“Setting” term limits? No sir. Term limits, already set by voters, would be drastically weakened.

But the good people of Arkansas are beginning to hear the good news, the truth, thanks to the campaign being waged by Arkansas Term Limits against what will be “Issue 3” on the ballot.

The group is led by Bob Porto and my brother, Tim Jacob, who are traveling the state speaking to audiences. Not surprisingly, the people are shocked and angered upon hearing the manifest fraud their representatives are perpetrating.

At a recent talk, Jacob called it “an attempt to deceive the voters,” noting “they have done it on purpose.”

Yet another argument for strict term limits . . . and fully informed voters.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Mr. Majesty

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Are American presidents becoming (or have they long since become) tantamount to elected kings?

Cato Institute scholar Gene Healy has penned volumes about the super-sized presidency (The Cult of the Presidency and False Idol: Barack Obama and the Continuing Cult of the Presidency, for two). So he’s well-qualified to assess conservative law professor F.H. Buckley’s Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America.

Buckley both credits our Constitution for protecting our liberty and indicts it for fostering the modern assaults on that liberty.

Our government has lapsed into an “elective monarchy,” which also afflicts parliamentary systems but to which presidential systems are especially susceptible. For “presidentialism fosters the rise of Crown government.” It “encourages messianism by making the head of government the head of state,” insulating him from legislative accountability and making it harder to remove him.

Though Healy finds the argument well-defended in many respects, he isn’t entirely convinced. He’d like more evidence, for example, that parliamentary systems are as better equipped to reverse big and bad policies as they are at imposing them.

I’ll let these two argue the nuances regarding which form of out-of-control national government is most dangerously constituted. We can be grateful, at least, that our own elected king is curbed by term limits much less easily shucked than has proved the case in other presidentially governed countries.

Like these others, we may have an elected monarch. But, pre- and post-FDR, he is not a monarch-for-life. Not yet.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Empowering Abuse of Power

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Have a yen to cling indefinitely to political power? You probably oppose term limits . . . as well as the citizen initiative rights enabling voters to term-limit you.

And when voters possess both initiative rights and a willingness to exercise them, it wouldn’t surprise me if you pray that any judge assessing a duly petitioned-for term limits question deems it unconstitutional. Even if it’s garnered 596,140 signatures, 300,000 more than the minimum valid signatures required.

You guessed it: Not a hypothetical scenario. And not, of course, about you.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is leading to impose eight-year term limits on all legislative service in Illinois. The petition has more than enough valid signatures to reach the ballot. But incumbents sued, citing an early 1990s decision by the Illinois Supreme Court that declared a different term limits question unconstitutional.

Cook County Judge Mary Mikva agrees; “precedent dictates a very narrow provision for allowing the voters to directly enact term amendments to the Illinois Constitution.” Her June 27 ruling is being appealed.

The state’s notoriously corrupt political class may wish upon a constellation, but wishing won’t make the cited precedent relevant.

As Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, argued in a recent op-ed, “term limits are exactly the type of provision the Constitution’s framers thought citizens should be allowed to propose and vote on.” He added, “This isn’t just a common-sense reading of what the Illinois Constitution says; it’s also what its framers said explicitly when they included this provision.”

The stated aim of republican constitutions in America has never been to protect incumbents from effective citizen oversight and control.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.