NORMAN — Twenty years after Oklahomans elected to place a 12-year cap on the amount of time state legislators could serve, voters again will head to the polls this November to consider instituting term limits for statewide officials.
State Question 747 would amend the state Constitution to limit service as lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, commissioner of labor, auditor and inspector, superintendent of public instruction and insurance commissioner to eight years. The governor is the only statewide elected office with a current term limit; however, it applies only to two consecutive terms.
With the effects of the legislative limits just being realized in the last six years, advocates of State Question 747 say the measure will further cut down on corruption and keep elected leaders from amassing too much power. Meanwhile, others argue the limits keep some of the best and most experienced officials from serving.
Legislative term limits
In 1990, Oklahoma became the first state in the country to set a ceiling on the amount of time members of the House of Representatives and the Senate could serve in either chamber. Since the change was not retroactive, legislators began to be term-limited by 2004 and a total of 85 lawmakers have been barred from running again in the six-year period because of the change.
Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, who sponsored the legislation in 2009 that led to state question 747, said term limits in the legislature already have shown benefits. He said a fresh roster of lawmakers provides new ideas to the process and prevents legislators from building too much influence that can be abused over the years.
“This way (elected officials) will have to live with the laws that they create,” he said. “What our founding fathers envisioned is that we will have a citizen legislature and not so much of an elite class of politicians who can be there forever.”