Opinion: Courts should review Michigan term limits law
One of the most beautiful freedoms offered by the founders of our nation is our ability to make decisions for ourselves. The ability to decide where you live, work, play and who you elect to office are intrinsic American values. But here in Michigan, you are limited in your right to decide who represents you in the state Legislature.
Why? Term limits.
We are fortunate to have states as the laboratory for democracy — we have the ability to try something new, to test out a new form of government, and then make changes and try something new.
We’ve tried the most restrictive term limits in the country — and they haven’t worked. We’ve seen a loss of bipartisanship, a continuous run for office and most damaging to our system, increased power of unelected bureaucrats and outside special interests.
The U.S. Constitution provides citizens with the right to vote for the person they believe would best represent them, which generally means someone with the life experience needed to make the best decisions about how to move our state forward. The way Michigan’s term limits work, those with the desire to serve are barred from serving because of experience, not in spite of it.
This past January, 25 out of 38 state senators were new to the Senate — and seven had never held any legislative office before. Yet, they are responsible for running Michigan. What this means is that the unelected staff and bureaucrats, as well as lobbyists and consultants, have more knowledge, and therefore more power, than many of the newly minted members of the Legislature.
Good government requires experience, skill and a deep knowledge of the policy process. Those skills come with practice and experience. In most parts of our lives, we seek the most experienced person possible. If you were undergoing heart surgery, would you pick a recent college graduate, or would you go with the award-winning, highly experienced cardiologist?
It’s time to make a change. That’s why I joined seven other former legislators in filing suit against the state of Michigan — we’ve tried the most restrictive term limits, now it’s time to try something else.
It is important for our courts to have an opportunity to review our current system of term limits and determine if they are truly abiding by the standards set out by the founders of our nation.
I welcome a legal review and honest debate of term limits — and anyone who is supportive of keeping the status quo should as well.
Paul Opsommer is a Republican former member of the Michigan House of Representatives. Prior to his election to the House, Opsommer was the mayor and a member of the DeWitt City Council.