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Lyons planning hearings on term limit reform

October 4, 2016

The chair of the House Elections Committee is pledging to hold at least two hearings before year’s end on reforming the state’s term limit law with the hopes of moving a proposal out of the House yet in 2016.

Term-limited Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto), who is expected to win the Kent County Clerk’s election in six weeks, told MIRS Wednesday, “it’s high time” for a serious discussion on term limit reform. 

Whether that discussion means backing a joint resolution to ask voters to repeal the state’s term limit law or putting up a ballot question that extends legislative terms in exchange for a “part-time Legislature” is up for debate. 

“I know that we don’t have a lot of time left in this particular session, but it shouldn’t prevent us from having an honest, serious conversation,” Lyons said. “My objective is to reform term limits. If that means eliminating them, I believe it would a true reform that restores power to our people so they can decide who will represent them.” 

She said the unintended consequence of legislative term limits is that it has “empowered bureaucrats” and those impacted by the legislative process are getting “whiplashed” every two years with a new Legislature.

The House Elections Committee has a few proposals on the table it could consider if it wishes. 

– HJR C, by Rep. Jeff Farrington (R-Utica), extends term limits to all House members elected in 2016 and after from three to six two-year terms. It extends term limits for all senators elected in 2016 and after from two to three four-year terms. It means House members and senators could serve a maximum of 12 years in each chamber. 

– HJR Q, by Rep. Charles Smiley (D-Burton), eliminates the state’s term limit constitutional amendment on legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor, the secretary of state and attorney general. 

– HJR V, by Rep. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), eliminates the state’s term limit constitutional amendment for state House members and senators only. 

– HJR W, by McBroom, would allow legislators to serve a combined 16 years in the Legislature, be it all in the House, all in the Senate or a combination of the two. 

– HJR X, by McBroom, would allow term-limited legislators to come back for three more two-year stints for House members or two more four-year stints in the Senate if they take a term off in between. The word “consecutive” would be added to the constitutional amendment on term limits. 

– HJR Y, by Rep. Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) creates a unicameral Legislature that essentially eliminates the Senate. His proposal makes a legislator’s job a four-year term that he or she could run for four times. 

Obviously, any of the six can be amended to reflect any new proposal that could come up. 

Lyons said she’s partial with starting with McBroom’s HJR V and going from there. 

If term limits are going to stay, Lyons said she’d like them to apply to members of Congress, too, which would need a constitutional amendment, something Wendy Day is working toward. 

On the expected attack that Lyons is pushing this proposal to be self-serving, she said, “If they live in Kent County, they should vote for me in November. I’m not looking to extend my stay in the House. In fact, I would be open to grandfathering it so it doesn’t apply to me. This isn’t about serving politicians. This is about serving the people.” 

Former state budget director and Engler appointee Mark Murray confirmed he was contacted about a month of ago on the part-time proposal. He emphasized he is not leading the effort and would need to see a proposal before deciding whether to support it. 

“It could be good or it could be bad,” he said. 

On the state term-limit change, one source said there is a “movement” to act on this before the end of the year before a new House is seated. 

Contacted by MIRS, former Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis said, “Term limits is a hot political issue that over 70 percent of the voters support. I think when folks think about term limits, they only think about Congress.”

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