Monday, May 12, 2008

Term limits eviscerating our legislature

The Denver Post misses the real story in their horse-race article about the 2008 Colorado General Assembly races. The story is mostly focused on whether Democrats can increase their already sizable majorities or whether Republicans can chip away at those majorities. The really important issue that effects the quality of our government and thus the quality of our laws is brushed by in a sentence near the end of the article,

In all, 24 lawmakers, nearly a quarter of the legislature, will leave this year because of term limits or other reasons.

If you desire a government that is responsive to voters, not dependent on lobbyists and that isn't beholden to special interests you wouldn't run around changing the state constitution to ban free cups of coffee from lobbyists. You would get rid of term limits.

24% of the state legislature's seats will see freshman in them when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. State legislators are asked to comprehend and make educated decisions on a wide variety of increasingly complex policy issues. From health care to education to transportation to economic regulations the complexity of the issues is hard to over state. It takes years for legislators to build up a base of knowledge and expertise in just a few of these issues. Just as our legislators begin to realize some modest level of expertise they are nearing the end of their 8 year term limit. They are never given an opportunity to apply that knowledge and there are no old hands around to teach them the ropes.

Except of course for the lobbyists. They are there year in and year out. They are who our legislators have to rely on for data and information about the myriad of issues the legislator faces every year. There is nothing inherently wrong with lobbying and I am not an opponent to lobbying per se, far from it. There is though an in balance of knowledge between the lobby and our legislators that, if corrected, would lead to better and more effective government for the people of Colorado. There are other issues at work certainly - low pay, lack of staff to name a couple - but term limits decimate our legislature every single year and should be repealed.

1 comment:

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