Ballot drive: Change term limits, require financial reports

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A bipartisan coalition of business, labor and political leaders on Tuesday announced a ballot drive to amend Michigan’s legislative term limits, shortening them to 12 years from 14 but letting lawmakers serve the entire time in one chamber.

The proposed constitutional amendment also would require state elected officials to publicly disclose their personal financial information, like members of Congress must do.

A constitutional provision — approved by voters in 1992 — lets legislators serve no more than 14 years, including three two-year House terms and two four-year Senate terms. The initiative would allow them to serve 12 years — six two-year House terms, three four-year Senate terms or a combination.

Organizers said it would enable new lawmakers, particularly in the House, to focus on their job instead of looking to run for the Senate or find work outside the Legislature.

Backers include former Michigan Chamber of Commerce CEO Rich Studley, ex-Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Republican former House Speaker Jase Bolger.

Voters for Transparency and Term Limits, the ballot committee behind the effort, needs roughly 425,000 valid voter signatures by July 11 to make the November ballot.

“I do not think the state is being served at all well by a House of Representatives that really is one large revolving door today,” Duggan said, saying first-term members know that when they take office, they have to find their next job “pretty soon.”

Bolger said the proposal “would not just keep term limits but strengthen and improve term limits.” Allowing legislators to spend 12 years in one chamber, he said, would help them gain expertise and, more importantly, “elevate their constituents’ voices” in the state bureaucracy.

Patrick Anderson, an economist who authored the 1992 term limits ballot initiative, said the measure would “undermine” the constitution.

“Let me make the math transparent: This proposal would double the time a person could serve in the House of Representatives,” he said. “We would reopen the door we slammed shut in 1992, and once again see committee chairs serve a decade.”

Fifteen states have legislative term limits. Michigan is among six with lifetime restrictions. Of those, California and Oklahoma’s are 12 years, but allow lawmakers to serve all of it in one chamber.

The initiative also would require state legislators, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state and the attorney general to file annual financial disclosure reports. Attempts to mandate such reports have stalled for years in the Legislature, even though Michigan is among just two states where lawmakers pass and reject laws without the public knowing about their personal finances.

The officials would have to disclose their assets; income; real estate and investment transactions; liabilities; involvement in businesses, unions, nonprofit groups or education institutions; agreements related to future employment; gifts; travel payments and reimbursements; and charitable donations made by others in lieu of honoraria.

“The standards are very close to what the congressional delegation already has to report,” Gaffney said. “They’re not onerous. But they’re fair and they’re just and I think they’re going to be important for the people of the state of Michigan.”

The organizers did not say if people or groups have committed to funding a signature-gathering campaign that will cost millions of dollars. Studley said Democratic, Republican, business and labor leaders will work together to raise money.

“We’re determined to be successful,” he said.


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