Magazine article Black Enterprise

Term Limits Shake Up Black Politicians

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Term Limits Shake Up Black Politicians

Article excerpt

Black elected officials who have struggled for positions of power in state and federal government are gearing up to face a new opponent--term limits. Last year, California, Colorado and Oklahoma approved term limits for their state legislatures, and as many as 15 more states may vote on the issue this year. What started as an epidemic "kick-the-bumsout" campaign in 1991 has expanded into what some believe to be a serious threat to black political power.

Voter disgust over a growing number of political scandals, such as 355 members of Congress bouncing 8,331 checks at the House Bank in Washington, D.C., over a 39-month period, is fueling the movement. Paul Jacob, campaign director of U.S. Term Limits, a Washington , D.C.-based, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, believes limiting the amount of time that politicians can hold office will benefit minorities and women.

He says research shows that 79% of the blacks now in Congress were elected to "open" seats--seats not held by an incumbent. Similarly, 73% of the women and 80% of the Hispanics in Congress didn't face incumbents when they were elected. "Term limits will open seats and give districts better representation," Jacob says.

Acklyn R. Lynch, an African-American political science professor at the University of Maryland, believes term limits are bad for politics. "It will result in limited power for the elected official in states that have term limits," Lynch says. "When you have politicians walking in and out of political office, they don't gain much leverage."

In California, the newly enacted Proposition 140 limits state assembly members to three two-year terms and state senators to two four-year terms. Once those limits have been reached, the office holder is barred for life from returning to the legislature.

California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown's appeal of the state's term restrictions was rejected by the U. …

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