Wisconsin’s governor and members of the state Legislature might have to start counting their days in office as a proposed bill would impose limits on their terms.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville and Sen. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, would create a constitutional amendment that would limit the term the governor and lieutenant governor serve to only two four-year terms and would limit members of the legislature to serve 12 years in the senate and the assembly, Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, co-sponsor of the bill, said.
As of now, there are no term limits in Wisconsin.
This bill would create a greater sense of urgency to meet goals, which would help make the government more efficient, Gannon said. Currently, certain topics that require immediate attention are not treated with enough urgency and this bill would help change that, he added.
“I don’t believe the founders of the country and the writers of the constitution ever expected our servants to be in office forever,” Gannon said. “The idea was that you pass laws, serve for a period of time and then go back and live in those communities and live under the laws you had passed.”
Gannon said in a statement, 75 percent of Americans support the idea of term limits. These people believe lobbyists and special interest groups control legislators who have served for long periods of time, he wrote in the statement.
Fifteen states have term limits for their legislators and 37 states have term limits for their governors, Gannon said. These limitations will allow new individuals to be elected to the government, which brings fresh ideas to the chambers, he added.
“The statistics out there show that legislatures up to their 12th year of service are more active in introducing legislation than they are after 12 years of service and part of that is because you have used up your best ideas,” Gannon said.
John Witte, professor emeritus of public affairs and political science at the La Follette School of Public Affairs, said this bill’s proposed two four-year term limits is most commonly used among states with term limits.
These term limits have been implemented to restrict governors from being re-elected, Witte said. This has been effective across many states, he said.
But, Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, said this bill is too extreme a measure to address the government’s problems. The problem, she said, is not term limits, but the influence that lobbyists and funding from external special interest groups have on the government.
Sargent said the government should instead depend on and be influenced by relationships that are built between the legislators and their constituents over time. She said it is not good for the people if legislators are gone by the time these relationships are built.
If these relationships are not maintained, special interest groups stay and exert their influence on the government and public servants do not. Money will continue to have an undue influence and the groups will continue to rule the roost as opposed to the people, Sargent said.
“There is a lot that we have to do to fix the government so that it is actually working for the people,” Sargent said. “We need to empower the people and take away some of that power from special interests groups as opposed to reducing term limits.”
Witte said term limits were most popular and more likely to pass in southern states, where people did not want their governors staying in power forever.
An example would be Bobby Jindal, who was limited to serving only two four-year terms as governor of the state of Louisiana, Witte said.
The bill would not affect legislators and executives currently in office, Gannon said. This would give the bill a better chance of passing, he added.
Gannon said for this resolution to pass, it would have to be passed by the Senate and the Assembly in two consecutive sessions. The bill was passed in the Senate but not the Assembly this session and would have to start over, he said. Gannon aims to reintroduce the bill in the next session.
“But my intent is to bring it up again next session if I get re-elected,” Gannon said.