It’s long been known that once people get elected to office, like a seat in the legislature, there’s something known as the power of the incumbency. If you aren’t familiar with the term, an incumbent is the person currently holding an elected office. The truth is, the longer a person stays in office, the more recognizable they become and as they rise in seniority, their power may increase as well. It can be helpful for those people the incumbent represents and frankly, it becomes easier for that person to be re-elected each time their term is up. But there’s a downside for the citizens as well.
In Oklahoma, citizens noticed that there were too many office holders staying in power too long. Most career politicians had no interesting in changing how anything was done, whether it stifled job creation and economic growth or not. The status quo had served them well, and they intended to keep things the way they were, regardless of how Oklahoma would benefit from new ideas and policies.
It’s no wonder that when Oklahoma voters were asked whether our state should become the first in the nation to adopt legislative term limits, the constitutional amendment passed overwhelmingly. That was in 1990, when citizens supported the measure limited legislators to 12 years total, with the exception of years served on an unexpired term of the previous office holder. In 2010, term limits of eight years were approved for the governor and some other statewide offices.
Oklahomans still support term limits, as do I. But a recent study conducted by SoonerPoll shows 71 percent of Oklahomans would like to see standardized term limits for all state elected officials of no more than 12 years with the exception of the governor.
Prior to the beginning of the session, I filed Senate Joint Resolution 45 which would let voters decide whether to change the current term limits of eight years for lieutenant governor, state auditor and inspector, attorney general, state treasurer, labor commissioner, insurance commissioner and superintendent of public instruction to enable office holders to serve 12 years.
I believe term limits are a good idea for our state, but for most statewide offices, a longer term is going to allow for more efficient and effective administration. The 12 year cap has worked well for the legislature, and I believe it would work well for these other statewide offices also.
SJR 45 was approved last week in committee, and now will be voted on by the full Senate. If it makes it all the way through the legislative process, voters will have the final say next November.
Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator Mike Schulz at the State Capitol, Room 418, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, or call me at (405) 521-5612.