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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SJR 2: Whacky Terms and Term Limits for State Legislature

The latest bad idea from Pierre: Senate Joint Resolution 2, a proposed constitutional amendment changing term length and term limits for our state legislators. Don't be fooled: the resolution says "term limits," but it actually extends the time any given legislator can hold the same seat in Pierre.

Right now, our legislators serve two-year terms. They can serve four consecutive terms—eight years—before they have to step aside. (A four-term senator can run for the state House, and vice versa.)

SJR 2 creates a new wonky schedule: in 2012, we would elect senators and representatives to serve four-year terms. Same in 2016. Then in 2020 we'd elect legislators for just two-year terms. And so on, with legislative elections in 2022, 2026, 2030.... (Hmm... does this scheme have anything to do with decennial redistricting?)

SJR 2 would then limit legislators to three consecutive terms in either house.

SJR 2 would thus reduce by 40% the opportunities you and I have to "throw the bums out!" It would also increase by two years the amount of time successful, well-known, well-funded incumbents can hold onto their seats.

If you like term limits, SJR 2 is not your bill. If you like regular accountability at the ballot box, SJR 2 is not your bill. Maybe when Senate State Affairs takes up this resolution, we'll hear just who might want to vote for such a wonky system besides sponsors Senator Tom Hansen (R-22/Huron) and Rep. Dan Feinstein (D-14/Sioux Falls).

Of course, during the committee hearing, witnesses who begin speaking at odd-numbered minutes will be allowed to speak for 11 minutes each, while witnesses speaking at even-numbered minutes will be allowed to speak for 5 minutes each. And every 45 minutes, the committee will have to recess and reconvene in a different room....

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