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Tim Skubick

Tim Skubick

Term Limits Here to Stay

November 11, 2011

The tilting at windmills to alter term limits has ended even before the tilting began.

The latest “Don Quixote” is Rep. Rick Olson (R-Saline). He’s a smart and dedicated fellow who concluded, and he is not alone, that term limits are a deterrent to good government. They downplay experience, which is celebrated in every other job under the sun, but not at the Capitol.

The anti-government folks convinced enough Michigan voters that six years in the House and eight years in the Senate would be good enough, and it most certainly would end the notion of career politicians. It most certainly did not, but that’s beside the point. They won this thing fair and square and the citizens did speak.

Rep. Olson wanted to give lawmakers a choice to spend 14 years in one house or the other. He sensed some buyer’s remorse out there and felt there was a slight chance this modification might fly.

One guy who has no remorse is Patrick Anderson, one of the authors of the law. Years ago he hinted that he’d be willing to revisit this law “to see if we made the right decision.”

Well, that time is at hand and the revisit was short and not so sweet for Mr. Olson. The freshman lawmaker did not even know Mr. Anderson, but before the two could chat, Anderson dug in with, “I’m clearly not convinced that anything needs to be done to the constitution.”

Or in case anyone missed the point, he adds that he is willing to talk about it but not willing to go there. “I’d say that’s a good summary,” he smiles while politely dumping on this renewed change effort.

Mr. Olson got another huge dose of reality. He went looking for other lawmakers to join him. He got exactly one other…his seatmate.

“My sense is it’s not going anywhere,” he correctly concludes. “It will take someone with more influence than me,” he opines in what will vie for understatement of the year.

So the anti-term limit folks, and you know who you are, wonder what strategy could possibly turn this around?

Michigan has four living former governors and in varying degrees each has some interest in his or her legacy. Here is a chance to put their new mark on state history.

How ‘bout a joint news conference with former Governors Milliken, Blanchard, Engler and Granholm? And while you are at it, how ‘bout inviting the former speakers of the House, including Paul Hillegonds, Bobby Crim, Gary Owen, Lew Dodak, Rick Johnson and others? And for good measure solicit the support of the former Senate majority leaders, including Dan DeGrow, Ken Sikkema, Mike Bishop (oops, can’t put him next to Ms. Granholm), Dick Posthumus and Bob Vanderlaan.

But the news conference would not be enough, the anti-T.L. faction would argue. All those leaders have a donors list stashed away somewhere — dust it off, get on the horn, and each could raise mucho. Maybe $5 million would be needed.

The Center for Michigan, which has talked for years about the need to change this law, could bring all of these folks together and coordinate the effort.

But alas, you’re right. This is too much heavy lifting. They would never do it. The out-of-state pro-term-limit guys would parachute in to kill this before it multiplied. The angry citizens would never buy it anyway, especially if all these politicians told them the change is needed.

Bottom line is crystal clear: term limits are here to stay.

Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.

Tim Skubick Extra Extra…
(A weekly bonus only for Dome readers)

My Name Is Rick Perry
So what’s the big deal about a GOP presidential candidate having a senior moment? Hasn’t everyone?

Ask Rick Perry, the one time frontrunner. The Texas governor can hardly claim that mantle this week after he fumbled around for almost a minute during the televised debate from Oakland University, painfully trying to remember which departments he would eliminate if elected.

Chances are you didn’t see it happen. But in this viral age, where going to the bathroom shows up on the Internet, that does not mean he will skate away from this flub.

It’s already on You Tube at multiple locations, and just wait until the late-night comics get done with him. You can hear Letterman now: “Rick Perry needs a memory transplant. Anyone dumb enough to donate?” Or Leno: “During the next debate, moderators will start with the easy questions for Gov. Rick Perry. Like, what is your first name or who is buried in Grant’s Tomb.”

Some were quick to write him off completely, but that is a stretch. But here’s the problem: from this point on, it will be the elephant in the room wherever he goes.

Citizens will wonder, will he do it again?

And almost certainly it will happen again, and then the media will begin to wonder if this guy is capable of residing in the Oval Office, where a loss of memory can have life-threatening implications.

Ah, but it was so much simpler for politicians when the mass media were not around to turn your every foible into a liability.

For his part, Mr. Perry tried to laugh it off during the post-debate spin session and, at the very least, he should get a thank you note from Herman Cain, whose sexual harassment challenges did not emerge as the lead debate story thanks to the forgetful Texan.

You’d Never Do This
Much of what transpires in Lansing defies logic, but then that’s why they call it politics and not an exact science.

To wit, being a member of the House and Senate earns you about $70,000 a year. So why on earth would you spend more than that to get elected?

Check this out. There are 38 members of the state Senate and five of them spent more than $70,000 of their own money to keep their seats. Another nine spent darn close to that.

This would be like going to a potential employer who was willing to pay you $50,000 a year and offering him or her $75,000 for the job.

No logic there.

Sen. John Papageorge (R-Troy) is on top of the Big Spender list, having shelled out $125,000 from his savings account. Next is former school superintendent Bruce Caswell, who somehow scraped together $116,000, and fifth on the list is conservative Macomb County Sen. Jack Brandenburg, who coughed up 85 thousand smackers.

The others were not nearly as generous with their own money, but they are noteworthy nonetheless. Oakland County Republican Mike Kowall came up with $62,000. Sen. Steve Bieda from Warren came in with $37,000, and part of the Rocca dynasty, Tory, dug into his wallet to the tune of $30,000 — just shy of half of what he will earn.

So what gives?

No, they are not certifiable.

Believe it or not, many politicians do have a dominant gene for public service and want to make a difference. And some have an expensive ego; some love the power; some see this as a stepping-stone to a better job; and some don’t want to lose what they already have.

Whatever the reasons, you must concede that most of you would never spend more than you will earn — which is why you are in the private sector and not in Lansing.

November 10, 2011 · Filed under Tim Skubick

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chuck Fellows // Nov 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Ah, the term limits ruse to electoral reform.

    What’s in this for the voters? Nuttin!

    Lets make a deal with the public – end term limits if and only if politicians will end the influence of money.

    How? All donations go into a blind trust distributed equitably by the trust to all those who appear on the general election ballot no sooner than ninety days before the election.

    Only allow one donation per donor for a candidate for public office and the donation amount cannot exceed $100.

    Restrict the amount of the candidates personal funds to a percentage of the total distribution to that candidate from the trust, for example no more than 5%.

    Prohibit all campaign activities sponsored/supported by any interest group other than the opportunity to contribute $100 one time for individual candidates. (Sorry Moroun, no game here and jail time if you do, you will learn very quickly not to mess with County Clerks)

    Only applies to candidates for office since it would be impossible to police various support efforts for ballot questions, initiatives and such. Of course, with contribution limits on candidates politicians will be free to form their own opinions and listen carefully to a far broader base of opinion.

    And by the way, the route to ameliorating the lack of experience so often cited as the problem with term limits – its called studying – what politicians like to say to kids in school, “Do you homework!”

    Different versions of history are very good teachers, if you are willing to make the effort.

  • 2 Dan Wholihan // Nov 11, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Tim, while I oppose term limits because of too many 2 and 4 year lame ducks, this paragraph listing the politicians there tests my opposition. I’m not sad at seeing most of them be termed out.

    The only way term limits go away is if current politicians start doing a good job, and results start showing to the voters. However, not only would “their rep” have to be seen as doing a good job, but “the other reps” that everyone dislikes in the district. I nearly danced a jig when the pudits’ favorite “statesman” Joe Schwarz was termed out.

  • 3 Curt B // Nov 15, 2011 at 10:46 am

    People simply don’t trust poloticians, and for good reason. Term limits, while having some downsides, are generally a good thing and would be very helpful at the national level. having people in congress for over 40 years (John Dingell) flies in the face of the limited government and citizen legislators the Founders envisioned. Michigan voters made the correct choice years ago, and I hope we never go back.

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