01/26/07 — Lawmaker limits: Too many years in office can be positive or a negative for some

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Lawmaker limits: Too many years in office can be positive or a negative for some

The decision by former Speaker of the House Jim Black not to seek another term after many years of service in the N.C. House is the end to another rather sordid chapter in state politics.

But his smart decision to put an end to his service brings up a question that some say both state and national politicians need to think about — term limits.

There are pros and cons to this issue. Many regions of the state and country that have longtime, powerful lawmakers representing them at the state and national levels are reluctant to consider anything that would remove that advantage.

And it can be a significant advantage to have someone like Sen. Ted Kennedy who knows the ins and outs of the Senate because he has served so long. And there are numerous examples like his all over the country in both national and state politics — and sometimes even on local government boards and councils.

But there is another side to that coin.

There is something to be said for those who say that a decade or more of one person representing an area in any sort of legislative body defeats the purpose of having a democracy where any new ideas have the chance to flourish and grow. A new person can bring a new perspective and direction that could be a significant asset to a community that is looking to grow and improve. And getting new blood in any organization can often make it stronger.

The power that goes along with long-term service can be enticing, too, and dangerous.

Just look around the number of people who have been part of scandals this past year — some because they might really have started to believe they were untouchable.

Term limits is a question that has been around for a while, but now might be the perfect time to consider it again in North Carolina. One way or the other, we might just set a new standard for the rest of the nation.

Published in Editorials on January 26, 2007 11:04 AM