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Letter Supporting Term Limits 

The Dakotan
 November 4, 2022
 •

Election Day November 8 

A YES vote on Measure 1 will be good for North Dakota. It would apply an 8-year term limit to the ND Governor, and members of the State House and State Senate. 
 
Term limits improve citizen access to the process, encourage more candidates to run, and increase voter participation in elections. They mandate rotation in office and expand the circle of citizens with knowledge of how state government works, thereby increasing transparency and oversight. Term limits introduce fresh perspectives while preventing corruption. 
 
On October 26th, a press conference was held at the Capitol featuring a who’s who of insider lobbyists, special interests, and long-serving legislators. They all lined up against Measure One because term limits are a threat to their power. At the conference, one lobbyist tried to make the case that term limits would allow for various interest groups to come into North Dakota and push their ideologies. Yet, that is exactly what happens now. Every legislative session in North Dakota, millions are spent by lobbyists to game the system. 
 
Opponents defend 20+ year politicians because they claim that “institutional knowledge” and political experience are essential. But as Ronald Reagan famously said, “the only experience you gain in politics is how to be political.” One person recently chaired the Senate appropriations committee for nearly 20 years – which gave him essentially a monopoly of power over state finances. When politicians cling to power for that long, they become gatekeepers who keep citizens out of the process. Lobbyists and bureaucrats love that status quo because they know exactly who to go to in order to get what they want. And that is exactly why they oppose term limits. 
 
One retiring legislator – with 32 years of service – said that “you cannot understand the budget in 8 years.” This myth has been busted by the track records of other states that already have 8-year term limits, which score higher rankings of fiscal health. While term limit states such as Florida are thriving, states run by long-serving politicians – such as Illinois – are drowning in corruption and red ink. Plus, it’s better to have all of the 141 people in the legislature, plus retired legislators in their communities, who understand the budget process, rather than a small clique of people in leadership. 

Of course, it is important to balance new ideas with experience. With term limits, a natural system of merit will emerge. Someone who is good at their job and gets reelected, could theoretically serve 8 years in both chambers in the same district, for a total of 16 years. This will develop leadership based on merit rather than simple longevity in office. 

Another claim by opponents is that bureaucrats will run wild without term limits. Evidence from states with 8-year term limits suggests the exact opposite is true. Term limited legislators are proven to enact more detailed legislation and to exert more control over the process in order to ensure that their preferences will be implemented without agency interference. Research in the Policy Studies Journal, concluded that term-limited legislatures use ex ante means of bureaucratic control to a greater extent by granting less statutory discretion to the bureaucracy. 

Opponents claim we have a 70% turnover rate with our legislature, but that is misleading. The average citizen-legislator in North Dakota serves 8-9 years. Yet, a small number of career politicians stay much longer and cycle themselves through all of the positions of leadership, and thus hold almost all of the real political power in the state. Often good candidates choose NOT to run because of incumbent advantages. 90% of lobbyist support goes to them, and most are easily reelected. Term limits expand the bench of local candidates, and encourage mentorship from outgoing legislators. Elections aren’t going anywhere with term limits, but they will be more fair. 
 
Opponents have also decried the use of “out of state” money to help get our Measure passed. Our financial reports are fully transparent. We partnered with U.S. Term Limits, a 501(c)4 nonprofit, which has received financial support from North Dakotans, and is strictly focused on issue advocacy for term limits. Our ground team and sponsoring committee is 100% North Dakotans. Governor Burgum has endorsed Measure One. There is tremendous support for term limits here, with over 80% of North Dakotans telling pollsters they support 8-year term limits. Over 46,000 North Dakotans (a record number) signed our petition to get term limits on the ballot. No one from out of state will be voting on this issue – only YOU, the citizens of North Dakota, will decide. 
 
Citizens will rotate through public office at all levels – state House, state Senate, School Board, County Commission, or elsewhere. No one has a monopoly on knowledge. Everyone – from all walks of life – has something to offer in public service. That is the beauty of representative government. That is the purpose of term limits. Please vote YES on Measure One. 

Jared Hendrix 

Chairman of North Dakota for Term Limits 

Measure 1 Campaign 

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