The Term Limits measure is polling high among North Dakotans, but in recent weeks a growing number of statewide organizations and legislative leaders have come out against it. 

Term limits debate heats up in the runup to November >

KX News’ Josh Meny sat down with ‘North Dakota for Term Limits’ Chair Jared Hendrix for one last pitch before election day. 

The following is a transcription of their conversation. Josh’s questions and statements are labeled in italics.

So why do you think term limits are a good idea for the state legislature and the governor here in North Dakota?

“So term limits have a number of benefits. They deal with incumbent advantage. Most incumbents are re-elected. So there’s a lot of times where you have good candidates that choose to not run, because of the disadvantages that they might face. You deal with that term limits increase voter participation in politics in the states that have passed term limits, we’ve seen dramatic increase in the number of people voting, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of candidates who run and the more people that participate in the more people that cycle through government, the more citizens that have an intimate knowledge of how government works and how the budget works. And the more people who are paying attention, therefore, you have greater transparency and accountability. It also severs the relationships that develop over time between long-serving politicians and bureaucrats and lobbyists. And with those relationships that occur over time, the lobbyists and the bureaucrats know exactly who to go to to get what they want, which means that they have a leg up over the common citizen. So term limits, correct that,” explained ND For Term Limits Chair Jared Hendrix.

North Dakota is, of course, a part-time legislature, the average legislator serves 160 days per four-year term. What do you say to the argument that term limits will basically decrease the amount of institutional knowledge within the state house?

Yeah, so a few things. First of all, the less time they spend in government, the more time they spend with constituents, which I think is good. But also the fact that you’re not going to lose all the institutional, what you might call institutional knowledge, overnight, because under our measure, you could still serve eight years potentially in the house, you could switch in the same district if you’re successful and reelected and serve eight years in the Senate. So most of the people who will be likely to be in positions of leadership, committee chair positions, House leadership, Senate leadership, they are still going to have more experience, you still will have a balance between the new ideas coming in and the experience. But the difference is, the average legislator in the state currently serves about eight or nine years. But what term limits will do is it will get rid of the tendency of people who do the 20, 30, 40 years. So, it levels the playing field, but it’s not going to get rid of all the experience we have,” said Hendrix.

Now you argue the way it is now where legislators serving there for decades are tight with the lobbyists. But what about the argument that if there are less legislators who have been there longer? It’s the lobbyist who have the institutional knowledge, and they sweep in and take more influence?

Yeah, so what’s interesting is, if that were true, then we wouldn’t have every single lobbyist in the state opposing our measure. You’re always going to have lobbyists, they know the advantage that they have, if they didn’t have that advantage, they wouldn’t be opposing this measure, you’re always going to have some lobbying. But the issue there is that when when, when lobbyists know who to go to, to get what they want, that’s when they’re the most effective. Effectiveness tends to come from relationships, relationships tend to come from time. So when you have new people cycling through more regularly, they have a different set of incentives. And so like, for example, in states that have passed tournaments we’ve seen as it relates to bureaucracy, legislators tend to pass more detailed legislation, they tend to pass what’s called ex ante legislation, whether it’s more based on forecasting, so they’re putting stricter parameters because they know they have an end date. They know they’re leaving, and they make sure that it’s done right.