Monday, December 31, 2007

New Assault Launched On Legislative Term Limits

During a recent update, I wrote about past abuses of Oklahoma's old guard politicians. I explained how some had earmarked money for their own pet projects, and how this type of heavy-handed control allowed individual legislators and their associates to benefit directly from taxpayer dollars.

While this form of abuse is still present in the legislature, I am confident in predicting that the window on legislative earmarks is shrinking. Those of us who are fighting to put an end to earmarks face the likelihood of success, due in part to the fact that there are many new legislators who have taken office in the past few years. Many of these individuals have not been corrupted by the political process. Unlike some of their predecessors, they are not career politicians. Oklahoma's term limit law allows all representatives and senators to serve only twelve years in the legislature. After that, they are under a lifetime ban from holding office in the legislature again. I believe this new generation of representatives and senators are fulfilling one of the important visions of our nation's founding fathers - the vision in which an average citizen dedicates a few years of life to representing the people as a citizen-statesman. At the end of the term of office, the legislator returns to the normal world to live under the very laws he or she helped to create. This helps ensure legislators will be more representative of the people instead of becoming a class of political elite.

As a result of the term limits law, the legislature is very different from just a few years ago. Gone are many of the old guard power bosses who tightly maintained the status-quo. These politicians could have stayed in office almost indefinitely and they held powerful committee chairmanships where they would bottle up reform-minded legislation. They have been replaced by a group of energetic professionals, many of whom wish to enact pro-growth policies (such as cutting taxes) to change Oklahoma for the better. And, should some succumb to the temptation to become part of the status-quo, they will inevitably be replaced by term limits.

However, State Senator Mary Easily recently announced that she will file a resolution as part of an effort to repeal term limits. If the Senator is successful, starting in 2010, members of the legislature would no longer be limited on how long they could serve.

In response, Senator Owen Lauglin released the following statement. "Thanks to term limits, the Oklahoma Legislature has attracted new legislators who have experience in the 'real world.' There is a different mindset because the newer legislators have come here to serve for a finite time and to make a difference. They don't want to make a career of being in the legislature."

I agree with Senator Lauglin's point of view. I think all Oklahomans should take pride in the fact that Oklahoma was the first state to pass a term limits law. As your Representative, I will continue to defend this important reform.

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