Michael Caldwell re-introduces term limits amendment

Georgia voters may have the opportunity to limit the number of terms state legislators are allowed to serve, that is, if lawmakers under the Gold Dome let them.

On Friday, state Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) prefiled HR 2, which would limit to four the number of consecutive terms state legislators can serve, requiring them to wait at least one full term to serve again.

Caldwell, who is about to begin his second term, proposed this constitutional amendment just before the 2013-2014 session, then known as HR 5, though the House Committee on Governmental Affairs didn’t move on it. The amendment was co-sponsored by state Reps. John Pezold (R-Fortson), Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), David Stover (R-Newnan), and Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine).

The amendment “[p]rovides for [two] things,” said Caldwell on Saturday evening via Twitter, “(1) Requires incumbents step aside once a decade and remember what its like to have someone else push the button for them and (2) removes the incumbency advantage once a decade, and requires a returning legislator to run against a sitting incumbent.”

Though he concedes the issue overplayed, Caldwell believes when term limits are done right, “they do a great job leveling the electoral playing field.”

State Rep.-elect Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock) chimed in on this particular point. “I support [term limits],” he said, “but the big issue is the incumbency advantage.”

If HR 2 is passed by a constitutional majorities in both chambers of the legislature, voters, in November 2016, would be posed with this “yes” or “no” question on their ballots: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide term limits for members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives?”

According to Section 1 of the proposed amendment, term limits would “apply to terms of office beginning on or after January 1, 2017,” and will include partial terms.

Disclosure: Jason is a senior writer at FreedomWorks. The views expressed in this post don’t necessarily reflect those of his employer.

17 comments

  1. Dave Bearse says:

    No strong feelings on this. It’s a check on incumbency, but a much better check would be more competitive districting.

    HR2 adoption could make for chamber to chamber bumps, or switching…. serve four terms in one chamber, then go to the other (or attempt to do so); or exchanging places for a term or four.

  2. saltycracker says:

    +10, agree on redistricting but by neighborhood, zip code, town, county or other community/ geographic divisions but not race, religion, nationality, party affiliation….

    • NoTeabagging says:

      Totally agree. Geographic and population (head count only) factors should rule redistricting decisions.

  3. Kent Kingsley says:

    Great idea, hope this year term limits will get some traction in the legislature. All one needs to do is look at the funding for incumbents vs. challengers to realize the field is completely tilted to incumbents.

  4. Will Durant says:

    Non-partisan primaries would almost guarantee that everyone gets “primaried”. The incumbent label should be removed from the ballot. And of course I am in complete agreement with salty and others that gerrymandering by party, race, etc. should be eliminated. Even up the playing field instead of placing arbitrary term limits. Reviews of other states’ results with fixed term limits have been mixed. Republicans would be wise to eliminate the gerrymandering possibilities now before the pendulum swings the other way.

  5. Jon Lester says:

    Term limits could also force effective legislators out and bad ones in to fill the void.

    I don’t seriously expect it to go anywhere this time around, and they’ve proven many times over that this issue just doesn’t end careers as others would.

    • saltycracker says:

      In my corporate world that worked just the opposite – seniority and staying around to collect defined pensions caused us to loose our fresh ideas and competitive direction, particularly in the executive offices.

      And yes we also hired some bad execs but could eject them quickly, wouldn’t be so easy with a union/party backing them.

    • Harry says:

      Would you agree that the current situation is too beholden to leadership and there is too much quid pro quo deal making required to get legislation to the floor? Other than term limits what procedural or other reforms could help?

      • saltycracker says:

        Term limits have some curb to lobbyists building relationships – 10 years may not make that as true as shorter terms. No anonymous donations for political candidates.? Corporate key shareholders/boards made known?

    • Noway says:

      Term limits won’t go anywhere. Hasn’t in the past, will not in the future. It’s just political theatre.

  6. jpm says:

    Representative Caldwell and I’ve debated the merits before; the down side is every 8 years the House Ways and Means turns over its members – the sole delineation of responsibility for the House in our State Constitution is to offer up a State budget and tax to provide the funding; so every 8 years we change out the committee leadership. The same with insurance, etc. To be frank, a 40 day legislature is less of a threat to our budget than the mega Executive Branch that is on the job 365 days a year spending the budget and the Governor giving the Legislature his budget to run the State. Even if we change out our legislators – the real menace is the professional State workers in the State office building implementing laws and spending the money stays intact while the legislature goes home at the end of 40 days.

    The best way to curb government and to make government effective is to curb the Executive Branch, not hobble a part time legislature.

    A lot of good people support term limits that if passed would strip the power away from the House and Senate leadership. If you disagree with my views, and want the bill to be heard & passed from committee you must call your House and Senate member and tell them you as their constituent expect them to support the bill by directly pushing the Speaker to bring to the floor for a vote. Otherwise, the House leadership will allow the bill to languish in committee. Make no mistake – this is a bipartisan threat to both parties leadership so if you want this to get to a vote you have to make it happen. Mr. Caldwell has again done his part.

    • saltycracker says:

      Isn’t part of the problem being the legislature getting too cozy with state employees and passing bills to protect the bureaucracy?

      • Will Durant says:

        I see more of a problem with the coziness between an unencumbered Executive branch and both its direct and indirect control of state employees. With a legislature that just rubber stamps everything the Governor does they are freely giving up their constitutional duties.

        • jpm says:

          Will – AMEN. Just look at the way the budget, tax changes, and insurance changes are handled. Three sessions ago the ‘tax reform’ written behind closed doors was released, and the Speaker called it for a vote 22 hours later. Probably only a small handful of reps had read the new tax bill that gave us the internet tax, taxed “casual” used car sales, etc. However, the Gov.’s office has direct input and a view into each piece of legislation while the State House members are frozen out of key pieces of legislation so that there is no revolt from the few members willing to buck the Speaker and/or the Governor. The Speaker’s Chief of Staff will openly tell House members that if they do not fall in line their legislation is dead in committee. If anyone doubts that – ask your House member to be candid.

      • jpm says:

        Saltycracker – all three branches are a bureaucracy, but the mother of all bureaucracies is the Executive Branch led by the Governor. Rep. Caldwell has on his office wall a “wheel” that is color coded showing each department and agency in State govt. – it is absolutely stunning to visually see 98% of State government is the Executive Branch. There are far too many agencies and departments for a govt. to run efficiently. Understand the State Senate is controlled by Casey Cagle due to the republicans giving him power sharing authority above his Constitutional mandate to “preside” through allowing him direct input into selection of committee chairs and committee members – then understand per our State Constitution is a member of the Executive Branch. In essence the Executive Branch controls the Senate defacto through the Lt. Gov. A 40 day legislature is nothing compared to the real elephant; aka the Executive Branch.

  7. Three Jack says:

    Term Limits – Attempting to overcome voter stupidity by legislative action that requires those not limited to enforce limits upon themselves.

    Nice red meat for the uninformed masses, but has no chance of passage.

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