State legislatures may experience a mass exodus

A study of the impact of term limits by NCSL, the Council of State Governments and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation concluded that in term-limited legislatures, “it is common to see members begin their campaign for leadership in their freshman year.”

For instance in Florida, freshman lawmakers “begin to lobby their colleagues for support for leadership and often lock up the speakership seven years ahead, after completing just one year of their first term,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist with the University of Central Florida. “This has not always resulted in accomplished legislators rising to the top, since who can really tell who will be effective after just one year in office? Rather, it is ideology and personality and the ability to raise money in one’s first year that seem to be the deciding factors.”

Such dynamics pose leadership challenges on several levels. From day one, new legislators are looking after their careers, rather than learning the procedural and substantive ropes. Then, once they take over as a leader, they lack the depth of experience that their pre-term-limit predecessors had. Finally, once in office, they quickly become lame ducks, limiting their leverage to put their legislative priorities into effect.

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