On the Outside Looking In: Lobbyists' Perspectives on the Effects of State Legislative Term Limits

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Term limit laws for state legislators now exist in 19 states. While these laws were passed as early as 1990, they have only recently actually forced legislators from office. Prior to the 2000 elections, only two states (California and Maine) had experienced virtually complete legislative turnover in at least one chamber as a result of term limits. Nine other states have had at least one cohort of legislators forced out of office. Now that a significant portion of these legislative bodies has been replaced by term limits, we can begin to examine the consequences of this reform. We report findings from a survey of lobbyists in five term-limits states. We find strong consensus among these lobbyists that term limits have caused the state political influence structure to shift away from the legislature and toward the governor, administrative agencies, and interest groups. With regard to the impact on internal operations and procedures of the legislature we discover considerable variation across states, variation that in part, is related to legislative professionalism.

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