Did you happen to see a big pink pig on the streets of Imlay City last week? The grassroots organization, Don’t Touch Term Limits!, went on a mini tour of southeast Michigan on January 8, pulling their 18 foot hog to five locations, including downtown Imlay City, in an effort to protest efforts to change Michigan’s term limit rules. The pig is meant to symbolize lawmakers who, in the group’s opinion, want to “keep feeding at the public trough on the taxpayer dime.”
In 1992, Michigan voters approved a ballot initiative to establish term limits in the state constitution that limits the amount of time a legislator can serve in a lifetime—no more than six years in the House or 8 years in the Senate.
This past November, a group of former lawmakers filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn the law, saying it’s too restrictive. Additionally, people in Lansing—both politicians and grassroots groups—have reportedly talked about putting the matter before voters again, asking this time to extend or repeal term limits.
Term limit advocates say the rules prevent “career politicians” from personally benefitting from their time in office. In Michigan, they cite a recent poll that found 69 percent of respondents oppose changing the law.
Proponents for altering the current limits argue that the revolving door of legislators doesn’t allow sufficient time for representatives to develop meaningful policy. Additionally, studies have shown, they say, that new legislators tend to rely more on lobbyists and outside influences to make up for their lack of expertise.
It’s certainly worthwhile to have a conversation about governance and evaluate how things are or aren’t working well. Maybe it’s time to take a deeper dive into other aspects like elected official salaries or benefits and talk seriously about campaigns and fundraising too.
Experience has taught us that there’s rarely a single solution to important issues at hand and this scenario is no different.
We hope that voters, elected leaders and grassroots groups continue the conversation about how to strengthen democracy in our great state.