Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Voters Go for Limiting Terms of Politicians Critics Say Move Will Force Valuable Members out of Office. RETIRING THE INCUMBENT

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Voters Go for Limiting Terms of Politicians Critics Say Move Will Force Valuable Members out of Office. RETIRING THE INCUMBENT

Article excerpt

WILL term limits bring drastic reform to American politics?

Terry Considine, a Republican state senator in Colorado, says they will, and millions of voters seem to agree.

In Oklahoma, Colorado, and California, voters this fall slapped limits on the number of years a state legislator can serve. Colorado went one step further - approving a limit for federal officeholders from Colorado.

The reforms are aimed at career politicians who currently cling to office for as long as 30 or 40 years. Critics contend that incumbent protections, like large, government-paid staffs and free mail, as well as special-interest money, make it nearly impossible to defeat officeholders. Ninety-six percent of all congressmen were reelected Nov. 6, for example.

The term-limit effort gets roundly criticized by many politicians, journalists, and academics, such as Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution and Tom Cronin of Stanford University. But voters don't agree. Colorado approved an eight-year limit on state officeholders and a 12-year limit on federal officeholders by a whopping 71-to-29 margin on Tuesday. California voters approved by a much narrower margin a six-year limit on members of the state Assembly.

"This is a great day for America," says Senator Considine. "The people of Colorado have a visceral understanding that government is not working as it should. The system has become inbred and self-serving, rather than accountable. . . ."

The measures could face constitutional challenges in court, however. The greatest uncertainty involves states which try to put limits on federal officeholders.

Considine, who led the fight for term limits in Colorado, says: "Politicians have begun to look at government as a source of a well-paid job which is even more generously rewarded by the euphoria of power. People don't like it. We need to redefine public service as part of a broader life."

Dr. Cronin argues that term-limiters are trying to achieve reform in the wrong way. The real problems with American elections, he says, are uncompetitive, gerrymandered districts, franked mail, and special-interest money. Reformers are treating a symptom, rather than the root causes, he says. …

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