North Dakotans will vote on a measure this fall to limit the governor and state legislators to two four-year terms. While some of us support term limits, others oppose. However, we unanimously agree that voters should reject this ill-conceived measure. Its overly restrictive design will result in worse not better leadership in our state's most important policy making body, the people's legislature.
The biggest problem with the measure is it robs voters of the right to elect legislators they continue to support. North Dakota has a part-time citizen legislature. These members meet every two years for 80 days or less, and attend some committee meetings during the interim. Most members serve in the legislature while holding down full-time jobs, teaching, managing businesses, and raising families. We have a true part-time citizen legislature and it is one of the greatest strengths of our state.
The trade-off for this accountable and accessible citizen legislature is that the learning curve for legislators is steep. It takes years to understand the wide range of policy matters legislators must act on including education policy and funding, higher ed, criminal justice, Medicare, Medicaid, healthcare, tax policy, energy development, water, infrastructure funding and environmental issues. To become fully versed on the intricacies of the state budget and state agencies takes even longer.
Limiting legislators to two four-year terms will result in less informed and less experienced representatives and will transfer power from elected legislators to unelected agency heads and special interests.
Additionally, it's unclear what problem this measure is intended to fix. Our legislature already has a healthy rate of turnover. In fact, more than 70 percent of North Dakota House and Senate members have turned over in the last 12 years. Importantly, this turnover is at the discretion of voters selecting who best represents them regardless of their length of service. The tight and arbitrary 8-year timeline proposed by this measure would rob voters of this right.
We understand term limits seem like a way to give power back to the people. This measure would have the opposite effect, would undermine the strength of our citizen legislature and degrade the wisdom and experience we need in our policy making branch. We urge voters to reject it.
Kirsten Baesler, Superintendent of Public Instruction
Thomas Beadle, Treasurer
Julie Fedorchak, Public Service Commissioner
Doug Goehring, Agriculture Comissioner
Jon Godfread, Insurance Commissioner
Sheri Haugen-Hoffart, Public Service Commissioner
Al Jaeger, Secretary of State
Drew Wrigley, Attorney General