Senate Majority Leader Bruno announced yesterday that he is backing Senator Griffo’s bill to limit the terms of statewide officials and legislative leaders.
The bill would limit statewide officials to eight years in office, and it would prevent a member from serving as Senate Majority Leader and Assembly for more than eight years. Committee chairmen would be limited to six years in those positions.
While the Brennan Center has no official position on term limits, this does get us thinking about a certain quote from the first season of the West Wing. President Bartlett says, “When the playing field is leveled and the process is fair and open, it turns out we have term limits: they’re called ‘elections.’”
There is definitely some truth to that. Why start with term limits on all officials, good and bad, when you can go a long way toward fixing the underlying problem without them?
If you want to reduce incumbent financial advantage, try lowering contribution limits, closing campaign finance loopholes, and creating a system of public financing.
If you want to stop incumbents from excluding strong challengers from the competition, try taking the power of redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature and vesting it in an independent body.
And if you want to see a more diverse slate of candidates, try easing the restrictions on challengers trying to appear on the ballot.
We’re glad to see the Senate attempting to address dissatisfaction with longtime incumbents and legislative leaders, but we hope to see them try more targeted solutions before resorting to the blunt instrument of term limits.