Gene Arnold’s Perspective on Speaker Term Limits

| January 31, 2013

Gene Arnoldby Gene Arnold

Speaker Tillis has announced he will step down after two terms.  Public speculation is his purpose for this is to run for the US Senate.  This voluntary action has generated the question of should this action be adopted into state law.

First of all, this position has taken on more responsibility and authority over the years.  However, term limits for the Speaker of the House are good only if those limits apply to the Senate Pro Temp.  Not to do so would create a situation which existed for Senator Basnight and a few years back for Speaker Liston Ramsey.  Clearly these men had more political moxie and could get their agenda enacted more so than the elected Governor.  If only the House had limits the Senate would become a stronger political powerhouse than the House.  The balance of power would be destroyed.

When term limits are employed there is more opportunity for new leadership and fresh ideas to be explored in the House and Senate.  More elected officials would be less complacent and more active in pursuing political roles of leadership.  Stories still abound about the Ramsey era as Speaker.  Old timers talk about the ‘Gang of Eight’ who virtually controlled government in the State for many years.  Budget Chairmen were always listed as the top of the leadership pool due to their committee chairmanship.

Without term limits and with extended terms of the same leadership, resentment builds among the legislators who are not in the political power circle.  Power invested in a few breeds opportunities for corruption.  It also creates an atmosphere for favors to those electing the leaders.  The payoff comes from hidden legislation.  These activities appear as ‘special provisions’ in the budget and never have open exposure to debate or scrutiny.    There are still people who are in prison who took advantage of this system to create illegal opportunities for personal financial gain.

When you have a very smart and politically savvy leader such as Thom Tillis, it hurts a little to see him leave so soon.  By the same token shorter term limits for the leadership creates opportunities for potential leaders to grow and develop.

Term limits for key leadership positions, including committee chairmanships, are good if they apply to both the House and Senate leadership.

Gene Arnold is a former legislator and an NC Spin Panelist.

Category: NC SPIN Perspectives - Opinions from NC Leaders & Organizations

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