Term limits are often promoted by those who are dissatisfied with their representatives. They fail to recognize that term limits are indiscriminate–they might well go from bad to worse. Nonetheless, Schuyler County legislators will now be limited to three terms in office, up to 12 years. Why did they do that?
- “Legislators run for reelection with no guarantee of return. To impose anything else is redundant.”–Thomas Gifford (R-Montour Falls)
- “It’s much more healthy for the legislature, and it’s much more healthy for the taxpayers.”–Barbara Halpin (R-Odessa)
- “Clearly the electorate is not involved. It’s a sad truth.”–Barbara Halpin (R-Odessa)
- “Any rational person watching our leaders in Albany and Washington would certainly see the need for term limits.”–Dennis Fagin (R-Tyrone)
Thomas Gifford, who has served more than 12 years, believes the voters should be free to elect and reelect whomever they will. I agree. Barbara Halpin argues that new people and new ideas are healthy. That may be true, but if the voters wish they can accomplish that without aid. If the voters are not involved as Halpin claims, forcing them to make a disinterested choice after 12 years is unlikely to be helpful. Dennis Fagin’s observation, which begs the question, adds nothing to the debate.
Absent here is the argument that legislators who become entrenched in office are no longer responsible to the voters and so should be replaced. Sometimes this may be true, but again I think it better for the voters to take action rather than enacting term limits which may deprive them of the services of worthy representatives.
Sidney Graubard (R-Horseheads), who has served in the Chemung County legislature for 34 years, will seek reelection. The voters can turn him out if dissatisfied, but I doubt they will. They may value his experience and dedication.
Rep. Tom Reed says he favors term limits and now intends to serve no more than 12 years, but his constituents needn’t depend on that. If we feel he doesn’t deserve reelection, we can turn him out this fall.
© William Hungerford – May 2014