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Story Archives: Term limits resurface
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|Term limits resurface|
During the 1995 election cycle in Louisiana, term limits was one of the hot-button issues that more than a few candidates for the Legislature effectively used to their benefit.
A number of incumbents were tossed out of office that year thanks to an electorate that was a bit peeved over the video poker scandal that rocked the Legislature during Gov. Edwin Edwards' fourth and final term in office.
Then-Sen. Larry Bankston, who is one of the most likeable individuals you'll ever meet, was convicted and sent to federal prison for his involvement in the video poker racket. Long-time Sen. B.B. "Sixty" Rayburn slipped through the cracks, escaping conviction courtesy of his down-to-earth, grandfatherly influence with a jury. Rayburn avoided conviction, but the voters had had enough. He was unseated by Phil Short in the '95 elections. Rayburn was first elected to the Legislature in 1948.
Sen. Mike Walsworth, a Republican from West Monroe, was one of those candidates in the '95 election cycle who used the term limits issue to his advantage. A candidate for House District 15 back then, Walsworth painted the incumbent, Rep. Charles Ray Anding, as a career politician who was out of touch with his constituency. Anding had only served in the House since 1988, but that didn't matter. He was a Democrat who was allied with the old guard in the House, and the old guard had fallen out of favor with thousands of voters across the state, including the right-leaning voters in District 15, anchored in West Monroe.
Walsworth probably didn't realize it at the time, but often times in life we may just get what we wish for, or what we thought we wanted. As time passes, we learn that our desires may serve counter intuitively to our best interests, or represent a thorn in our backsides.
Fueled by promises made on the campaign trail the year before, the Legislature reluctantly embraced the term-limits rage during the 1996 regular session. Then-Rep. David Vitter was the leader of the term limits movement.
Now a U.S. senator, Vitter has changed his mind about term limits. He says "seniority is critical in performance of our duties."
Whether you like him or not, Vitter's change of tune toward term limits is the right one. The Legislature should pay attention to him, too.
We're revisiting the term-limits issue in light of two bills the Legislature is entertaining during the regular session. One of the term-limits measures was offered by Rep. Steve Pugh, R-Ponchatoula. Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette, is the author of the other one.
Pugh's House Bill 292 would allow parishes to hold local-option elections for voters to decide whether school board members should be term-limited. Champagne's House Bill 390 is a proposed constitutional amendment to allow voters to decide the same for the six statewide elected officials (besides the governor). Remember, the state Constitution already limits a governor to serve no more than two consecutive terms.
While it's within reason to suggest that Pugh and Champagne had good intentions in mind by offering their term-limits bills, it is asinine to limit the people's choices in who they want to represent them in an elected capacity. That's exactly what term limits accomplish.
Besides, the people can limit a politician's career each and every time he or she appears on a ballot.
Yet, I'm reminded of something my Daddy said long ago: a wise man learns from his mistakes. Only a fool repeats them.