Thursday, 28 July 2005

The 50% solution

Former Mississippi governor Bill Waller is playing at being a reformer, but he’s only got the solution half-right:

Former Gov. Bill Waller Sr. says Mississippi should reduce the number of state legislators and limit lawmakers to two terms.

Waller spoke today at the Neshoba County Fair. He was one four former governors to speak in Founder’s Square along with incumbent Gov. Haley Barbour.

Waller, a Democrat who was governor from 1972–76, urged lawmakers to streamline state government.

“It has been obvious for years that we have too many members of the Mississippi Legislature and the numbers should be reduced in both the House and the Senate,” he said in prepared remarks. “Only 11 states have larger legislatures and most of those are much more heavily populated.”

Waller also said Mississippi would benefit by limiting terms for lawmakers.

“A two term limit on a smaller number of legislators would give the best and most modern state government of all 50,” he said.

I’m all in favor of halving the size of the legislature, but pretty much everyone who’s studied the issue of term limits seriously finds that the effects of term limits are pretty much the opposite of those promised by proponents: instead of producing “citizen legislators” who aren’t beholden to parties or organized interests, it produces a legislature full of political novices who have to rely on unelected party leaders and lobbyists, since they lack the political expertise and experience necessary to exercise good independent judgment.

A far better method for producing an accountable legislature is to ensure vigorous competition for seats, which suggests that Mississippi would be better served by overhauling the gerrymandered monstrosities we call legislative districts than selecting a fresh batch of mediocre politicians every eight years from constituencies that are the result of racial and partisan redistricting.

1 comment:

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Another thing that could be done is to reduce the House’s terms from 4 years to 2 and stagger the Senate seats where half are elected every 2 years. Maybe that would lead to a slightly higher turn over. Just throwing that out there.

Though, you’re right that the best method would be to axe the gerrymandering.

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