The time is right for leadership term limits
By State Rep. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne
Pennsylvanians demand and deserve a better, more responsive state government. Recent reforms, a new open records law and the creation of an independent fiscal office will have a positive impact on the operation of the General Assembly, and I was proud to support these measures. Meaningful reform on other important issues like campaign finance rules, legislative reapportionment and a legislative surplus fund that just topped $200 million continue to come up short.
In 2007, when the Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform was tasked with bringing transparency and accountability to state government, I proposed a term limit on the length of time a legislator could serve in a single leadership position to eight years. The editorial board of the Harrisburg Patriot-News recently called the idea "a good step toward changing the culture in the Legislature." I agree, and I believe the time has come for term limits on legislative leadership positions.
Government reform is difficult in Pennsylvania. The diverse nature of our beautiful Commonwealth from Philadelphia to Jefferson County makes consensus building on any issue a challenge. The primary reason reform eludes us, however, is the ever-expanding power of legislative leaders who control every step of the legislative process and every dime of the substantial financial resources appropriated for the administration of the legislature.
Many members of the Speakers Reform Commission agreed there should be some type of term limit for leadership positions, but the committee failed to garner the super majority needed to adopt the new rule.
As I noted in my remarks to the commission, the principles of our democratic government tell us concentrated power cannot go unchecked. It must be balanced and accountable if the public good is to be served.
By limiting the tenure of leadership posts, we will make the General Assembly more accountable and will empower committee chairman, rank-and-file members and, most of all, every Pennsylvania citizen with a stronger voice in how state government does business.