More Evidence for Term Limits

State Rep. Bryan Lentz, a Democrat from Delaware County, has provided the latest evidence that term limits are very healthy for representative democracies.

First elected to the state House of Reps in 2006, Lentz has limited himself to two terms in Harrisburg by retiring to run for an open Congressional seat next year. He’ll have a very tough contest for the U.S. House, most likely against former U.S. Attorney and Delaware County district attorney Patrick Meehan, who is well known as a “law and order” guy.  

So it was no surprise when Lentz recently called upon state House Majority Leader Todd Eachus to resign his leadership post. Though controversy and speculation are swirling around Eachus, including the indictment of his former political ally Bill DeWeese (who recently resigned as House Majority Whip), Eachus himself has not been formally charged with any wrongdoing.

The salient question: Would Lentz have called upon an unindicted caucus leader to step down had he chosen to stay in Harrisburg and climb the ladder of seniority and power in the state House rather than retire and run for Congress? My answer: no way, Jose.

The Lentz example reminds me of another chapter in statehouse politics illustrative of the beauty of term limits:

In 1999, state Rep. Frank Serafini, a Republican from Lackawanna County, was found guilty of perjury by a jury of his peers. Article II, Section 7, of the PA Constitution states: “No person hereafter convicted of embezzlement of public moneys, bribery, perjury, or other infamous crime, shall be eligible to the General Assembly [italics added].” Upon the guilty verdict for Serafini, the Democrats-to their credit-attempted to introduce a resolution expelling him from the House. Republicans, to their discredit, voted to block the expulsion resolution from even being considered. There were only five Republicans out of 102 who voted to expel the perjurer, and they had something germane in common: each of the five had self-term limited himself and was exiting the General Assembly the following year, either to run for higher office or retire.

The moral of the story: term-limited politicians are more inclined to vote their conscience and do the right thing rather than get caught up in the political game.

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