Are term limits in Congress a good idea?

There is a movement forming in West Virginia, and apparently 12 other states, to seek a constitutional convention to establish term limits for members of Congress.

Now, the chances of this actually going anywhere are pretty slim, so I don’t want anyone to get their hopes up. The question for many of us will continue to be whether it is a good idea.

A joint resolution has been presented to West Virginia lawmakers, but whether it can actually gain support when so many other goals are receiving focus is another thing.

It probably has a better chance of passage than the proposal to send the $10 million of our taxpayers’ money toward the border wall project, but there are other priorities to be discussed and very little really known at this time.

West Virginia’s is just one proposed resolution. If it passes, it doesn’t mean it will create term limits for members of Congress, it simply means there is support. Many more states have to also pass such a resolution, and if similar efforts are being made, I would encourage lawmakers to seek input from their constituents before moving forward.

The magic number under the U.S. Constitution is 34. If this effort can gather support from at least 34 states in calling for a convention on this topic, then an amendment to the Constitution can be proposed. More than 20 states reportedly already have passed some resolution pertaining to term limits, but there is no singular language.

Of course, if a Constitutional Convention is called, there still are voting requirements stipulated in order to draft and ratify such an amendment.

So, again, is this a good idea?

I can absolutely see an argument in favor. We already have term limits in place for the presidency. Several states have term limits for their governors. County commissions, municipalities, even chambers of commerce across the country have term limits in some way.

It’s a way to make sure the same people aren’t always going to be there; to allow others an opportunity to lead and to make decisions. The hope also is that it’s a way an individual doesn’t accumulate too much power.

On the other hand, sometimes it can be beneficial to have “senior” officials who are available to share their knowledge and experience.

Several years ago, Weirton’s election saw the return of only one member of the previous council. That meant a new mayor and six new councilmembers had to take time to get accustomed to the responsibilities of the office, the various operations of the city and get to know the names of the employees.

There are few term limits for public office in West Virginia. I know it’s been suggested, from time to time, to establish them in the Legislature. Our nation’s presidency also didn’t have them for well over its first 100 years. George Washington established the practice of only serving two terms, but it didn’t become official until after FDR (who served from 1933 to 1945) and the 1951 ratification of the 22nd Amendment.

Personally, I see no problem with some term limits. It would just depend on the way they are established as to whether it could work. Setting a two-term limit for a governor, for a total of eight years, could be agreeable, but doing the same for a member of the House of Delegates (whose terms are only two years each) could cause too much turnover at one time.

It’s similar in Congress, where senators serve six-year terms and U.S. representatives have two-year terms.

There’s a lot to keep in mind, and as I’ve said I don’t see this effort bearing any fruit for quite some time, but the conversation is happening out there and if it’s going to continue, it would be best to get the details worked out now.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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