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State Senate votes down term limits for state lawmakers

The Alabama State Senate on Wednesday voted down a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have imposed term limits on Alabama state legislators.

Senate Bill 127 was sponsored by Senator Bill Hightower, R-Mobile.

Under SB127 legislators would have been limited to just three 4 year terms in both the Alabama House of Representatives and Alabama Senate.

Polls indicate that most Americans support term limits; however, most incumbents win their party primaries even after decades in office.

Hightower has been a vocal proponent of term limits in his time in the Alabama Senate. Hightower is a 2018 Republican candidate for governor and he has made term limits part of his campaign.

Most statewide constitutional offices are already term-limited but the Legislature is not.  Congressional term limits are very popular polls, but have been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Efforts to advance a congressional term limits measure in the Congress have been unsuccessful.  A 2013 Gallup poll showed 75 percent of Americans supportive of congressional term limits with only 21 percent opposed.

“We will not stop until we end the old boys’ network that is stopping real change!” Hightower said. “We will never change Montgomery if we continue to elect the same insiders, and that is why I am running for Governor, to shake up the establishment and bring positive change to Alabama.  As Governor, we will continue to push for term limits and many other reforms that the career politicians know will end their grip on power.”

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The average tenure of those who opposed Hightower’s legislation was 12.3 years, more than the 12-year limit included in SB 127. Five of the Senators who opposed SB 127 have served over 20 years in the Alabama State Senate.

The longest-serving legislator is Rules Committee Chairman Senator James Waggoner, R-Vestavia. Waggoner served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1966 to 1983, and then ran for Congress unsuccessfully. Waggoner has served in the State Senate since 1990 and is seeking another term this year. State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, was first elected in 1974. Rep. Holmes is also seeking another term in office.

SB127 was rejected on a 9-15 vote.  While this issue has been introduced several times, this was the first time that it actually received a vote on the floor by the Legislature.

If actually passed, SB127 would still have had to be on the ballot to be voted on by the people.

Critics of term limits suggest that Legislatures will be adversely affected without members have the institutional knowledge that a member gets by being in the same legislative body for decades.

The 2018 major party primaries are on June 5.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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