Policy & Politics

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Term Limits in Ohio and Beyond

Published Jun. 14, 2012

June 2012

Background: Ohio enacted term limits via a citizen initiated constitutional amendment passed in 1992. The amendment established term limits of eight years for members of the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate. It also limited statewide elected officers (Governor, Lt Governor, Auditor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, Attorney General) to serving two terms of four years each.  Representatives can serve four consecutive two year terms and Senators are permitted to serve two consecutive four year terms.  Under the provisions of the constitution, an elected official must wait four years before being eligible to run for the same office. For example, a Representative who has served eight years may run for the Senate or another state, federal, or local office, may serve in another job, or may go back to the private sector. After four years, the legislator may run to return to the House of Representatives (or vice versa). Appointments to partial terms do not impact term limits.

The primary reasons or rationale cited nationally and within Ohio for establishing terms limits are that terms limits would:

• Improve the composition of who’s being elected to make legislatures more representative of the populations they serve by increasing the number of women and minority elected officials

• Weed out ineffective members

• Reduce political careerism by forcing legislators to return to their previous careers or private sector jobs

Issue: Since term limits have been enacted in Ohio and several other states, the composition of the legislatures have remained largely the same in regards to women and minority representation.  Some critics have argued that legislators become less effective as they grow in experience, because they must aggressively spend time thinking about what they will do at the end of their terms. This could include what office they will run for next such as the opposite legislative chamber, a local office, or statewide office. Many members of the legislature have sought appointments to a cabinet, the judiciary, or other appointed government.

The high turnover of legislators resulting from term limits has many other significant effects including:

• Increased reliance of legislators on partisan and non-partisan legislative staff

• Reductions in bi-partisanship

• Reductions in civility and collegiality among legislators, especially within committees

• Increased reliance on lobbyists

• Loss of “policy champions” or legislators that have specialized in a certain policy area for many years

• Increased power concentrated within legislative leadership such as the Senate President and Speaker of the House

• Increased focus on fundraising and elections

• Reduction in institutional knowledge and policy history.

Since the effects of term limits in Ohio have been steadily being realized by more and more Ohioans – citizens, legislators, candidates, organizations, and businesses have been increasingly asking questions about whether or not term limits should be repealed or modified.

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