It’s time for term limits for Pa. legislative leaders: Opinion

By Barry Shutt

For many years an often-discussed solution to the political stalemates in Harrisburg has been to impose term limits on House and Senate Members. 

The logic goes like this: If Members are limited by law to serve, say, only three terms in the House and two in the Senate, “things in Harrisburg would change dramatically.”

The appeal of such an idea is real; but the possibility of it becoming law is so remote that further discussion is pointless; as pointless as believing the General Assembly will, on its own initiative begin a process to reduce the size of the House and the Senate, which also requires a Constitutional change.  

Nevertheless, taxpayer frustration behind such discussions is understandable.  With the election of new members, even if only a few in each cycle, nothing in Harrisburg ever seems to change. 

Newly elected lawmakers, most, if not all, who run for their first election on the promise to “change Harrisburg,” seem so quickly changed “by Harrisburg.” 

Indeed, that has been and remains my perspective on too many state legislators.

However, my perspective may be changing. 

After talking to dozens of legislators who clearly share my frustration and who regularly share the genuine frustration of their own constituents over the legislative paralysis in Harrisburg, there could be one real and attainable change in Harrisburg’s body politic. 

It came from one lawmaker who was genuinely frustrated with the pace of change and his ability to become a functioning member rather than a back bencher of the Legislature required to bide his time: Term limits for all leadership positions in both Chambers of the Legislature.  

Wow, not a constitutional change; only a rule change.

If leadership positions in the House and the Senate, and even committee chairs were term-limited, say, for two or three legislative sessions, or four or six years, it could be transformative. 

The fresh ideas and the ideals of new Members brought to…

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