Legislative Staff and Term Limits

Following up on our blog post and Brad Bumsted’s article about Pennsylvania having the most legislative staff, I took another look at the NCSL data, making a special note of Ohio, Michigan, California, and Florida.  Those states are of particular interest, as they are large states with term limits on legislators.

It is interesting that one point critics of term limits make (note that most critics are lawmakers, staffers, or lobbyists) is that term limits will lead to staff dominating policy decisions, as legislators will lack expertise.  However, in looking at these term-limited states – all with populations similar to Pennsylvania or larger – not only do they have far fewer staff, but they have reduced the number of staff since implementing term limits, while Pennsylvania has added more.

Rather than “empower staff”, it appears term limits reduces reliance on legislative staff.

More importantly, you don’t have folks holding the same seat for 30+ years and accumulating power and staff – e.g. Sen. Vince Fumo, who probably had more staff himself than Ohio does.


Legislative Staffers
1988 524 1,289 1,174 2,978 2,012
1996 552 1,404 2,173 2,610 2,702
2003 506 1,153 1,803 2,359 2,947
2009 465 973 1,570 2,106 2,919
2008 Population
11,485,910 10,003,422 18,328,340 36,756,666 12,448,279
Staffers per 10,000 Residents
0.40 0.97 0.86 0.57 2.34