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Term Limits in State Legislatures

Term Limits in State Legislatures

John M. Carey
Richard G. Niemi
Lynda W. Powell
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Term Limits in State Legislatures
    Book Description:

    It has been predicted that term limits in state legislatures--soon to be in effect in eighteen states--will first affect the composition of the legislatures, next the behavior of legislators, and finally legislatures as institutions. The studies inTerm Limits in State Legislaturesdemonstrate that term limits have had considerably less effect on state legislatures than proponents predicted.

    The term-limit movement--designed to limit the maximum time a legislator can serve in office--swept through the states like wildfire in the first half of the 1990s. By November 2000, state legislators will have been "term limited out" in eleven states.

    This book is based on a survey of nearly 3,000 legislators from all fifty states along with intensive interviews with twenty-two legislative leaders in four term-limited states. The data were collected as term limits were just beginning to take effect in order to capture anticipatory effects of the reform, which set in as soon as term limit laws were passed. In order to understand the effects of term limits on the broader electoral arena, the authors also examine data on advancement of legislators between houses of state legislatures and from the state legislatures to Congress.

    The results show that there are no systematic differences between term limit and non-term limit states in the composition of the legislature (e.g., professional backgrounds, demographics, ideology). Yet with respect to legislative behavior, term limits decrease the time legislators devote to securing pork and heighten the priority they place on the needs of the state and on the demands of conscience relative to district interests. At the same time, with respect to the legislature as an institution, term limits appear to be redistributing power away from majority party leaders and toward governors and possibly legislative staffers.

    This book will be of interest both to political scientists, policymakers, and activists involved in state politics.

    John M. Carey is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis. Richard G. Niemi is Professor of Political Science, University of Rochester. Lynda W. Powell is Professor of Political Science, University of Rochester.

    eISBN: 978-0-472-02410-0
    Subjects: Law, Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Ideas behind the Reform (pp. 1-17)

    Legislative term limits, the grassroots electoral reform that swept across much of the United States in the early 1990s, began to kick in during the latter half of the decade. Entire cohorts of lawmakers were removed from office, first in California and Maine; then in Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, and Oregon; and subsequently in eleven other states. The onset of limits raises a number of questions about their effects. Among the most pressing: Do term limits produce a new breed of state legislator? Do they alter legislators’ behavior and priorities? Do they affect the balance of power among the various...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Term Limits and the Composition of State Legislatures (pp. 18-40)

    There is consensus among term-limit supporters that legislatures—at both the state and congressional levels—have been performing inadequately and that new personnel are needed in legislative office. Beyond this initial agreement stand various explanations for legislative malaise and for the appropriate response. For some, the problem is simply careerism, whereby legislators remain in office for long periods of time. Increase turnover and the problem will be solved. For other critics, however, we need new kinds of legislators, not merely new legislators. The argument here is that reform must encourage the election of individuals who are less interested in their...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Behavioral Effects (pp. 41-64)

    The recruitment and election of a new breed of state legislator was largely unsubstantiated by the survey and interview data presented in chapter 2. Term limits had swept through 40 percent of the states by the time of our fieldwork, and various changes were widely reported in anticipation of their first enforcement in 1996 and 1998. Yet as far as we could tell, the demographic and ideological makeup of state legislatures was not immediately altered by the reform, and there was no suggestion—except possibly for small effects on the percentage of women elected—that such changes would occur in...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Institutional Effects (pp. 65-93)

    The expectations of political scientists and activists regarding institutional effects of term limits vary more than in any other area. There are predictions that term limits will increase the power of party leaders because parties will gain increased control over candidate recruitment (Brady and Rivers 1991) and arguments that the reform will decrease the authority of party leaders because their control over legislative committee assignments will mean little to term-limited legislators (Malbin and Benjamin 1992). Similarly, some argue that limits will decrease the in›uence of lobbyists as legislators ineligible for reelection will be uninterested in the campaign contributions of interest...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Effects on the Broader Electoral Arena (pp. 94-121)

    It is now widely recognized that term limits on service in the state legislature can have a significant effect on the larger system of electoral offices. This effect was not necessarily intended by term-limit advocates and has not been widely discussed in the literature. To the extent that term limits are supposed to stimulate citizens to move onto the political scene for a prescribed period (or less if defeated) and then go back to their private lives, one might envisage no effects at all on the larger system of elected and appointed public offices. Yet no one really expects all...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Taking Stock of Term Limits (pp. 122-130)

    In 1969 Cuban-born writer Italo Calvino sketched “a new model for society with a political system based on the ritual execution of the entire governing class at regular intervals” (Calvino 1995).¹ Calvino’s ironic account foreshadowed many of the arguments that would surround the debate over legislative term limits in the United States more than two decades later. Fixing in advance a known date of termination sought to attract a different type of politician to office and to alter the nature of the representation provided by those who served, encouraging an elevated detachment from the venality of everyday politics.

    Term limits...

  11. APPENDIX A The 1995 State Legislator Surveys (pp. 131-140)
  12. APPENDIX B Legislator Interviews (pp. 141-144)
  13. APPENDIX C The Construction of the Professionalization Variable (pp. 145-149)
  14. APPENDIX D Independent Variables for Chapter 5 (pp. 150-152)
  15. Notes (pp. 153-162)
  16. References (pp. 163-168)
  17. Author Index (pp. 169-170)
  18. Subject Index (pp. 171-174)