Limiting Term Limits

House plan would extend careers of most Lansing politicians from 6 to 14 years

The new Michigan Legislature was sworn into office Jan. 12. The next day, they were at work on a proposal that could greatly extend the years that most of them are able to spend in Lansing.

On Jan. 13, state Rep. Sharon Tyler, R-Niles, introduced House Joint Resolution C, a proposed amendment to the state constitution aimed at changing the term limits imposed on state officeholders.

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It would benefit most those politicians who get elected to the House of Representatives, according to Jack McHugh, the Mackinac Center’s senior legislative analyst.

In 1992, Proposal B was passed by 58.7 percent of the voters. It stated that no person could be elected as a state representative more than three times (each term is two years) and that no person could be elected as a state senator more than two times (each term is four years). So under current constitutional law, a lawmaker elected to the Michigan House can serve six years and then be eligible to run for the Michigan Senate and add two more 4-year terms.

However, as McHugh points out, there are 110 seats in the House and just 38 seats in the Senate. Not enough offices to go around, so the majority of state representatives never get to extend their political careers beyond six years. For most of them, that would more than double if HJR-C becomes part of the constitution.

“You got a musical chairs going on but not everyone gets in,” McHugh said.

The proposed revision would allow politicians to “mix and match” their terms in both chambers, with a maximum limit of 14 years total. That means a state representative would be able to serve 14 years in the House, not the six that is term-limited under current law, but then would be ineligible to ever run for the Senate.

The advantages of incumbency mean that the vast majority of lawmakers are re-elected when able to run for the same office again. Stretching the maximum House terms from three to seven will mean that most state representatives will stay more than twice as long – 14 years rather than six.

“A lot of people would just spend 14 years in the House. It would totally change the whole idea of term limits,” McHugh said.

HJR C must be approved by two-thirds of the lawmakers serving in each chamber before it can be submitted to the voters for their approval. All changes to the state constitution must ultimately be ratified by a popular referendum.

The following state representatives have co-sponsored HJR-C. They are all Republicans:

Greg MacMaster, Peter MacGregor, Al Pscholka, Matt Lori, Kevin Cotter, Kenneth Kurtz, Mike Shirkey, Mike Callton, Ken Yonker, Gail Haines, Hugh D. Crawford, Kurt Damrow, Wayne A. Schmidt

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