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56 Freshmen Joining The House, Third Most Since Term Limits

December 6, 2022

Article by MIRS News, for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter

The Michigan House is welcoming 56 first-term members in the 2023-24 session, the most since 2011 and the third most since legislative term limits were adopted in 1992.

The 1999-2000 House class, the first one directly impacted by term limits, had 66 new House members. The 2011-12 class, the product of a Republican wave election, had 61 new members. Since term limits were adopted, the average House freshman class has been 42.

A spreadsheet listing the incoming class for 2023-24 for both the House and Senate can be found here.

The big freshman class this year is due to a combination of factors. 

– The current third-term House class is fairly large with 39 members. The average post-term-limits-era, third-term class is 31 members.

– This is a gubernatorial year in which statewide offices and the state Senate were up. Nobody knew for sure if the term-limits reform would fly, so 11 House members left a House term or two on the table to run for higher office, be it the state Senate (Reps. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford), John Cherry (D-Flint), TC Clements (R-Bedford Twp.), John N. Damoose (R-Harbor Springs), Annette Glenn (R-Midland), Mark Huizenga (R-Walker) and Padma Kuppa (D-Troy)) Congress (Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit)), Attorney General (Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.)) or Supreme Court (Rep. Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield)).

– Four House members were drawn into two common districts due to redistricting and ran against each other. One second-term House member opted against re-election or any election in 2022 altogether. Another second-termer, the late Rep. Andrea Schroeder, died.

– Counting Rep. Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Township) and Rep. Cynthia A. Johnson (D-Detroit), who both lost re-election to a fellow incumbent due to redistricting, five other members lost re-election in either the primary or general election — Reps. Terence Mekoski (R-Harrison Twp.), Rodney Wakeman (R-Freeland), Alex Garza (D-Taylor), Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann) and Richard Steenland (D-Roseville).

The House will have 25 second-termers and 29 third-termers.

Of the 110 House members, only Rep.-Elect Dale W. Zorn (R-Ida) will be completely term limited after this term. Rep.-Elect Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington) will have two terms left that he could serve under the new combined 12-year limit law. Rep.-Elect Doug Wozniak (R-Shelby Township), interestingly, never served a complete Senate term and could serve three more House terms under the law.

The Senate’s eight new members who have served three full House terms will be allowed to serve two full Senate Terms based on a special carveout crafted in the constitutional amendment, which reads, “this limitation does not prohibit a person elected to the office of state senator in 2022 from being elected to that office for the number of times permitted at the time the person became a candidate for that office.”

Those impacted include Sen.-Elect Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.), Sen.-Elect Mike Webber, Rep. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores), Rep. Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe), Sen.-Elect Sam Singh, Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Union Twp.) and Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton).

Average Length Of House Term Pre-Term Limits Was 4.5 

Those who weren’t in town before term limits were enacted are often told tall tales about long-in-the-tooth state representatives who lived on the teat of taxpayers well past their shelf life.

Exhibit A is often former Rep. Dominic Jacobetti, who served 20 terms before leaving office in 1994. However, a review of the five House sessions prior to term limits forcing out veteran legislators shows the average state House term for the 110 members in those five sessions was 4.5.

In the two sessions prior to term limits passing, the average lawmaker was in his or her 5th term. 

Jacobetti was the exception, not the rule. Nobody prior to at least 1989 served as long as Jacobetti or was even close. The former House Appropriations Committee Chair was in a class by himself. When he served his 20th term, former Rep. Richard Youngwas serving his 15th term. Former Rep. James O’Neill Jr. was serving his 14th term.

A couple were in their 12th term. Three were in their 11th term. But the largest class that year was the freshman class, with 28 members.

In fact, if you overlay the new term limits law on this 1993-94 class and presume the maximum number of two-year House terms is six, 83 of the 110 members were somewhere between their 1st and 6th term.

A spreadsheet that lays out which term House members were in per session for the past 18 sessions can be found here.

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