HB796 Term Limits For Hawai’i State Legislators scheduled for today Wednesday 02/08/23 – Here’s my testimony in support as amended

HB796 Relating to Term Limits for Hawaiʻi Legislators has been scheduled for today Wednesday 02/08/23 at 2pm. Below is my testimony in support as amended.

Readers are also encouraged to submit testimony!

Support HB796 with amendments:

Committee Chair and Members,

I am testifying in strong support of HB796 with the following amendment:

 “No person shall serve as a member of the house of representatives for more than eight years, nor shall any person serve as a member of the senate for more than eight years.”

The amendment is intended to say legislators may serve up to 8 years in the House and up to 8 years in the Senate, and no more than 16 years combined.

Few in the public sector are pleased with the status quo. Though our current legislative leadership possesses decades of experience, clearly that’s not enough.

“We already have term limits, they’re called elections” is the stock response, and until relatively recently, the position I subscribed to.

However, after 26 years of working within the system, I’ve come to believe differently.

Term limits will put a stop to the do-nothing, take no risk, keep your head down, go along to get along, “long game” strategy that too often infects those who aspire to serve in elected office.

Term limits will also put a stop to the excessive accumulation of power and the nonstop campaign fundraising that too often defines long-term incumbency. 

The problems and challenges facing us today are far too urgent to play the long game or any games at all. An 8-year term is plenty enough time for new elected leaders to make their mark, and to set and accomplish their goals.

The barriers to entry for new candidates are formidable. Money, name recognition and a conscious manipulation of the system by those already in power give incumbents an overwhelming advantage while keeping newcomers out.

The basic cost to run a campaign for the state Legislature can run between $40,000 to $100,000, sometimes more. Because there’s no cap on the amount incumbents can raise, some sit on “war chests” approaching $1 million, much of it raised during the legislative session from the very interests they are charged to regulate.

Legislators, by virtue of their position, are frequently in the public spotlight. They are constantly cutting ribbons or “breaking ground” at some new school, highway, or community center. They hold press conferences and issue press releases. In recent years, state legislators have taken to sending out glossy mailers under the guise of constituent surveys or a “report to the district.” These taxpayer-funded mailings conveniently become more frequent in the months preceding an election.

Yes, the cards are stacked high against new candidates, new voices, new ideas, and new leadership.

The governor, lieutenant governor, mayor, and all Council members in all counties already serve with term limitations. These term limits have not caused the weakening of government operations, nor have they empowered the deep state, or created a dearth of expertise.

What term limits do is create an opportunity for change. Our elected leaders are given eight years to pursue their goals and then they move on, creating space for others to step up.

There is no shortage of other opportunities to serve. Those “termed out” can work elsewhere in the public, private or nonprofit sectors, if indeed service is their primary focus and motivation.

Fifteen states including California and Colorado currently limit the terms of state legislators. It’s time for Hawaii to join them.

Please pass HB796 as amended, place this question on the ballot, and allow the people to vote it up or down.

Gary Hooser

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) www.hapahi.org I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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