Term Limits 2008
By Jerry Kopel
July 6, 2008
The reason for having "Term Limits" for legislators? It's a myth.
The number of legislators who left office every two years or less was
almost as large in the years before an eight year limit on service by a
house and senate member was triggered in 1998.
There were 24 senators and representatives listed in a recent Denver
Post article as "leaving". Bite your tongue, Denver Post!
Three of the term limited House members are running for the State
Senate. One House member, Rep, Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, who is not term
limited, is also running for and will almost certainly win a Senate
Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, is running for county commissioner.
If he loses, he still has two more years to serve as a state senator.
State Sen. Steve Ward , R-Littleton, entered the Senate in 2007 and if
he loses his race for Congress, has two more years left to serve.
So, instead of 24, there is a possible loss of only 18 members, if other
incumbents running for the legislature win.
Term limit supporters claim it's necessary to limit terms so legislators
don't overstay. To see if people leave on their own, or because of
election defeats or death, I went to the 1989 roster. The term limit
constitutional amendment was adopted in 1990 to trigger removals after
I wanted to see how many legislative turnovers occurred over an eight
year period without a term limit measure in law. Not included as having
left were legislators who moved from the house to the senate or from the
senate to the house.
Please see the accompanying chart. The total gone was 90, starting from
January 1989 up to but not including the start of the January 1997
session. There were 32 senators, 17 Republicans and 15 Democrats. In the
House, 58 representatives did not stick around. There were 28
Republicans and 30 Democrats.
All were gone, WITHOUT term limits forcing them out. Several did die in
office and a number were defeated in elections.
We lost an average of 22 - 23 legislators every two years WITHOUT term
limits being involved.
There are 25 members of the 2008 House who have served two years or
less, and are presently seeking re-election, 12 Democrats and 13
Republicans. They total less than 49 years of experience.
Can anyone really match that total for 25 members against the 62 years
of experience lost with the term limit removal of four senators, Ken
Gordon, D-Denver, Bob Hagedorn, D-Arapahoe, Andrew McElhany, R-Colorado
Springs, and Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs?
The Rocky Mountain News in a recent editorial, pointed out that
the so-called present "fresh personality" legislators made it to the
legislature because predecessors were term limited; the political
careerists were thinned out.
The turnover chart accompanying this column provides the hard evidence
the RMN asked for, to show term limits were not needed.
Since leaving the legislature in 1992 (I was one of the 90) I have often
watched House committees deal with the pros and cons of a bill. Before
term limits, an experienced House member could comment "We had this bill
before us 10 years ago, and one of the problems which resulted in its
defeat was ..."
That is no longer possible. You can't run to the Senate and hope to find
someone around in 2009 who was in the House in 1999 if you don't KNOW
there was a problem in 1999.
Lobbyists are not term limited and are always available to provide a
Why did I declare 22 years was enough in 1992, when I could have
remained another six years, assuming I won re-election? After all, I fit
the profile of a "political careerist".
In my last door-to-door campaign, as in previous ones, I carried note
pads which I left when no one was home. I would write "sorry to have
missed you" on each note pad.
On one such trip, I glanced at what I had written....almost
automatically: "Sorry to have met you".
Persons leaving the legislature over an eight year period without term
limits. We start at 100 percent with those who were there in January
1989 and 1990, but gone in 1991, down to those present in the 1996
session, and gone before the 1997 session began.
|No longer in the legislature
|| Cumulative Total
||5 Dem. 7 Rep.
||1 Dem. 5 Rep.
||7 Dem. 10 Rep.
||2 Dem. 6 Rep
||10 Dem. 4 Rep.
||6 Dem. 5 Rep
||8 Dem. 7 Rep.
||6 Dem. 1 Rep.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)