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Senate leader seeks Voters Not Politicians support to eliminate - or extend - term limits

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) says term limits have created more problems than they solved. For one thing, he says lawmakers quickly start eyeing post-political careers as lobbyists. He’s hoping the Voters Not Politicians campaign will get on board to help fix that by supporting his goal of extending or eliminating Michigan's current term limits.

The move would require voter approval because it would amend Michigan’s constitution. It would take super-majorities of Republicans and Democrats to put a question on the ballot.

Amber McCann is Shirkey’s press secretary. She says talks with the Voters Not Politicians campaign and other interested parties are still in the early stages.

“The majority leader is having discussions with other interested parties on the topic of possibly reforming term limits and what that could look like and whether there’s an appetite beyond his own personal preference,” she said. “At this point, he’s doing the research, sort of measuring the bandwidth, for what people would be interested in, if anything."

McCann says the ideas include considering it alongside ethics reforms, such as limiting the ability of former legislators to become paid lobbyists after they leave office.

Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) says lawmakers from his party could get on board. He says that’s especially true if the bargain included laws to limit how soon a legislator could become a paid lobbyist after leaving office.

“I’m definitely open to the conversation. I think a lot of my colleagues, well, we’re not big supporters of term limits in the first place, but the ethics piece is what kind of gets me excited,” Ananich said.

Ananich would also like to extend open records laws to the Legislature and to the governor’s office.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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