Term Limits in State Legislatures

Document Type

Contribution to Books

Publication Date



The idea of term limits has been around since the founding of our nation. The Articles of Confederation limited representation in the Congress to "three years in six." By 1777, seven states limited the number of terms that an executive officer could serve, and several states (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and Virginia) passed some type of limit on legislators or requirements for their rotation in office. Moreover, six states -- Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina -- limited the terms of some local offices (Petracca, 1992). The concept of term limits for members of Congress was proposed and debated during the Constitutional Convention but was not included in the proposed constitution. The process of ratification featured vigorous debate on the wisdom of term limits. Although left out of the Constitution, term limits and rotation in office remained popular principles throughout the nineteenth century, with most legislators voluntarily leaving office (Swain et al. 2000).

This document is currently not available here.