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State Legislature adds term limits proposal to November ballot

Michigan State Capitol illuminated by lights at night
Reginald Hardwick

A proposed constitutional amendment to replace Michigan’s current term limits is heading for the ballot this November.

That’s after both chambers of the state Legislature approved a House joint resolution Tuesday to send the issue to voters.

The amendment would let state lawmakers serve a total of 12 years in the Legislature and up to all of that time in one chamber.

Currently, lawmakers can serve 14 years but with a cap of three two-year elected terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate.

Supporters argue the switch would give legislators more space to learn their jobs without thinking about a countdown on their time in office.

“At any given moment, I think we’ve anticipated some sort of change to the term limit law and giving it to the voters to re-examine. I mean, this was passed some 30 years ago, and I think it’s time to kind of assess how this has worked and give it squarely to the voters to make a decision,” State Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said.

It would also require lawmakers and some statewide office holders including the governor to submit annual financial disclosure reports.

Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Twp.) said the timing was right to put the issue before voters.

“The time to do this was becoming urgent. And if we hadn’t … the danger of breaking more trust could lead to other proposals and such that might not even be functional,” McBroom said.

The resolution is based on a petition that the group Voters for Transparency and Term Limits had been circulating.

At a press conference Monday, the coalition called on the state Legislature to add their proposal to the ballot.

“By putting transparency and term limit reform on the ballot in November, [lawmakers] are allowing the people of Michigan to play an important role in moving our state forward,” effort co-chairs Mark Gaffney and Rich Studley said in a press release following Tuesday’s vote.

Meanwhile, opponents have argued the proposal would gut Michigan’s term limits law instead of improving on it. They say voters approved the current system with broad support.

The resolution passed by lawmakers largely followed the petition's language to re-make those term limits, with a few exceptions. The Legislature’s version leaves it up to lawmakers to set financial disclosure requirements, whereas the petition would have based those on federal Congressional rules.

Gideon D’Assandro is spokesperson for House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell). He explained the change away from using the Congressional model.

“It creates a standard for what is a conflict of interest for our Congressmen, which may not apply to being a conflict of interest for being a state Rep.” D’Assandro said.

He mentioned a potential conflict with existing Michigan requirements on lobbyist interactions as one example.

Lawmakers had previously expressed concerns that overly tight financial disclosure policies would discourage some from running for office. Those worries have slowed past attempts to get financial disclosure laws on the books.

“It is also important that we strike a reasonable balance when it comes to the financial information elected officials must disclose to help make government more transparent, and not further discourage good folks from running for office,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said in a written statement.

Michigan is one of two states that doesn’t require finance disclosure of its lawmakers.

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