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Michigan Proposal 1: What would change if voters approve term-limits law

capitol
Michigan voters are set to weigh changing term limits and establishing financial transparency laws in Proposal 1 on Nov. 8. (ehrlif / Shutterstock.com)
  • Proposal 1 would allow a state lawmaker to stay in office for up to 12 years 
  • Proponents: The proposal will enable lawmakers to make effective legislative changes
  • Opponents: The proposal will allow for more 'career politicians'

Nov. 9, 2022: Michigan Proposals 1 and 2 passed handily by voters Tuesday

Michigan voters on Nov. 8 will decide whether to amend the state constitution to change the state’s term-limits law and require financial disclosures of lawmakers and statewide elected officials.

Michigan's Proposal 1 is the only one out of three measures the Republican-led state Legislature placed on the ballot.

Proposal 1 Language 

Proposal 1 would be a constitutional amendment to: require members of the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general to file annual public financial transaction reports after 2023; require the legislature to enact laws with disclosure rules at least as stringent as those required for members of Congress under federal law; replace current term limits for state representative and state senator with a 12-year total limit in any combination between the House and Senate, with exception that someone elected to Senate in 2022 can be elected the number of times allowed when the person became a candidate.

A "yes" vote would limit lawmakers' tenure to 12 years in the state legislature and require financial disclosure rules for lawmakers and state executive leaders, such as the governor, secretary of state and attorney general. 

Related:

Voting "no" would keep things as they are. Lawmakers can serve up to six years in the House and eight years in the Senate. Legislators and the state's executive leaders do not have to disclose their finances. 

In May, state lawmakers weakened Proposal 1's language and voted to present the measure to voters on Nov. 8.

The bipartisan coalition Voters for Transparency and Term Limits is backing the ballot measure. Rich Studley, former CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and Mark Gaffney, former president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, lead the coalition.  

Groups and candidates opposing the ballot measure say it would increase the number of career politicians and that the current term limits are popular among most voters. 

Sponsor

Here is a more detailed look at what Proposal 1 would do and who is backing it: 

What are current term limits and financial disclosure rules?

Michigan lawmakers can serve three 2-year terms (six years) in the state House and two 4-year terms (eight years) in the state Senate. In all, state legislators can serve 14 years in office. 

Michigan has some of the strictest laws among the 15 states with legislative term limits. Only California and Oklahoma require flat 12-year term limits on lawmakers. 

Most of the states with term limits got them through the citizen-initiative process, according to the nonprofit National Conference of State Legislatures. 

Michigan and Idaho are the only two states without financial disclosure laws for state politicians. Personal financial disclosure laws require public servants to reveal information about their finances, relationships, professions and income.

What's the point of term limits anyway?

Term limits restrict the time a person can serve in an elected office. 

Michigan had no term limits for the state legislature before a ballot initiative that received 59 percent of the vote in 1992. 

Grassroots organizations championed term limits in the 1990s with the promise of reducing government spending and allowing for a more diverse legislature. 

Some studies report that current limits do not live up to the promise of diversifying the legislature and ridding it of career politicians. Some polls still suggest that current limits are popular among voters. There are no term limits for federal legislative offices except president; although, polls consistently show voters favor them for members of Congress. 

What would Proposal 1 change?

A "yes" vote would amend Michigan's constitution, changing term limits for state legislators from six years in the state House and eight years in the Senate to 12 combined years in the legislature. The proposal lessens a politician’s general term in the state Legislature by two years but allows them to serve the entire time in one chamber. 

The proposal would practically allow more than 300 barred current and former lawmakers to run for office again, according to a Gongwer report.

Proposal 1 would represent a reduction in the opportunity to serve for about 6 percent of future legislators, according to a report from the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. CRC also said Proposal 1 would allow legislators who have not exhausted their time in office to spend more time in one chamber of the legislature. 

However, people elected to the state senate in 2022 would still be subject to the current term limits, according to the ballot measure. 

It would also require lawmakers and state executive officials to file annual financial disclosure reports on their income, assets, liabilities, gifts from lobbyists, positions held in specific organizations and agreements on future employment beginning on April 15, 2024.

How did lawmakers weaken Proposal 1?

In May, the state Legislature weakened Proposal 1's financial disclosure rules. 

The original proposal would have required state public officials to disclose income, assets and payments received from anyone, a standard that congressional members must meet. 

Instead, the state Legislature altered the language to require lawmakers to disclose "sources" of income and assets and match gift reporting requirements for registered lobbyists. 

What are supporters saying about Proposal 1?

Voters for Transparency and Term Limits, a bipartisan coalition, is the original sponsor of Proposal 1. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan AFL-CIO, Michigan Education Association and the West Michigan Policy Forum also endorsed the ballot measure. 

Bipartisan supporters say having legislators in office longer may lead to more accountability, and the financial disclosure requirements will ensure transparency in state politics. 

Proponents, including former Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger and Democratic Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, say allowing lawmakers to stay longer in one legislative chamber removes their incentive to prioritize election to another chamber. Supporters also say longer terms would enable lawmakers to learn the nuances of writing and passing legislation, making them less prone to lobbying influences.

What do opponents say about the ballot measure?

Opponents of Proposal 1, including Patrick Anderson, who drafted the 1992 term-limit laws, say the measure would allow for more career politicians. 

According to the ballot question committee No More Time for Career Politicians, the proposal would not allow for enough legislative turnover. 

Critics also contend the swift vote by state lawmakers in May to place the measure on the November ballot was "an ambush," allowing for little debate or public notice ahead of the vote.

They also say the Voters for Transparency and Stronger Term Limits advertising solely focuses on the ballot measure’s requirement for financial disclosures and ignores that it would allow some lawmakers to serve longer in the Legislature.

Where do the gubernatorial candidates stand on Proposal 1?

In October 2021, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon signed a term-limits pledge backed by the nonpartisan group U.S. Term Limits.

Sponsor

The group labeled the ballot proposal as the “Michigan Term Limits Scam,” and said the measure would “seize control of state government away from the people of Michigan while handing it over to career politicians.”

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer supports Proposal 1 and more transparency, said Maeve Coyle, a spokesperson for Whitmer’s campaign.

In a statement provided to Bridge Michigan, Whitmer voluntarily disclosed her finances and said she believes other candidates should do so as well. 

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