Thursday, January 22, 2015

Unlimited

A quarter-century ago, Oklahoma voters approved term limits for their state elected officials. After 12 years in the legislature, either House, Senate or a combination of the two, yer outta here, unless you run for a statewide office. Those have their own term limits, too.

I wasn't so sure it was a good idea. Sure, we had a lot of hacks who'd gotten elected once upon a time and who wielded the sword of incumbency against all comers far better than they actually wielded the sword of government for the benefit of all governed. But we voters get what we deserve. If a state party organization couldn't get together enough to target one main offender from its opposite and send said offender packing with a top-tier challenger and a statewide infusion of cash, then it wasn't much of a party.

Now State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft  (R-Moore) agrees with me. He introduced a resolution asking for an election to let voters decide if they want the 12-year limit to be expanded to 16 years. Rep. Wesselhoft says that we lose good experience when legislators have to hand over the reins of power to someone else, and we should allow them some more time before asking them to go get jobs. Said experience can counter the vast knowledge of career bureaucrats and lobbyists, who have been at their appointed task for much more than a mere dozen sessions and who use this experience to hoodwink all the honest but na├»ve Mr. and Ms. Smiths who toil at 23rd and Lincoln.

But I don't know that I agree with Rep. Wesselhoft. I do agree that there's a mismatch of time on task between a legislator of just a handful of years and a state bureaucrat in place for decades. However, who has to be in office more than a week to see that the default position of far too many bureaucrats is "Protect My Paycheck?" And who doesn't know that the lobbyist for, say, an arts council is going to have a compelling case for maintaining arts funding over something else, or that education association lobbyists are going to be able to offer "50 Ways to Pay Your Teacher (More)?" Is there something about these folks that a 15-year legislator can see and counteract that a five-year version can't?

I think Rep. Wesselhoft hits on a real issue, but the solution of expanding legislative terms doesn't appeal.

Reducing how long bureaucrats can hold their jobs, on the other hand...

(H/T Dustbury)

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