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The Lion's Tale

Legislative inexperience hurts localities

Josh Siegel, Guest Columnist

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In this past election, there was one local vote which gained little attention, but deserves to be talked about a little more. Question B on the ballot for Montgomery County passed. This measure institutes term limits of three terms of four years for the county executive, and for county council members. This is a dramatic measure that will abruptly force four of the nine council members out during the next election cycle. These will have disastrous effects going down the road.

One issue is a lack of experience among lawmakers. A 2010 Wayne State Study found that there has been a decrease in checks over the executive branch in local areas, such as Montgomery County, that have term limits. Many of the elected officials did not even know that this was one of their responsibilities upon entering office. It says that this comes from inexperience, coupled with a lack of veteran mentoring. This will wind up increasing corruption, because it gives more power to one person without fear of retribution.

County council member George Leventhal, who will be removed in 2018 due to the term limit law, has concerns over the same issue. In an interview with Bethesda Magazine, he called the move “a dumb, unnecessary protest gesture.”

One of the arguments used by those in favor of term limits is that instituting term limits will “drain the swamp.” However, this doesn’t apply to term limits. The same Wayne State study in 2010 found that lobbyists and special interests wind up having even more influence with inexperienced legislators at any level, because they rely more on outside sources. Since Michigan instituted term limits for state legislators, there has been a spike in lobbyists and special interests being a source of “importance and guidance” on any bill.

This begs the question: Are advocates of term limits trying to “drain the swamp” and fight for regular, working class people? Or are they working for their own personal gain? The whole source of this local vote seems to suggest that this has little to do with stopping corruption. The man who got the signatures to put this bill up for vote is a man named Robin Ficker, a wealthy local businessman, a former Maryland House of Delegates member and a political consultant. He has run for local office many times in the last ten years, each without success. Now that term limits have passed, he is suddenly among the front-runners to be elected County Executive in 2018. How convenient.

People hate their elected officials, yet they are doing nothing about it. If you hate your elected official, then vote them out. Term limits will do little to solve this problem. There is just as much a chance of your next elected official being as unpopular as your current one. Even without term limits, people have the power to put in elected officials who they like. Currently, we have term limits. They’re called elections.

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