Michigan legislature puts legislative term limits, financial disclosure amendment on November ballot

Thirty years ago, Michigan voters approved an initiated constitutional amendment, Proposal B, that enacted term limits on state legislators, as well as other elected officials. This November, voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to modify the state legislative term limits. The Legislature passed House Joint Resolution R (HJR R) on May 10, placing the new constitutional amendment on the ballot. House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-97) introduced HJR R earlier in the day. 

In Nov. 1992, 58.7% voted to approve Proposal B, which was designed to limit the number of times that a person could be elected to congressional, state executive, and state legislative offices in Michigan. In the Michigan State Senate, members were limited to two 4-year terms. In the Michigan House of Representatives, members were limited to three 2-year terms.

This year’s ballot measure would replace Proposal B’s state legislative term limits with a new requirement: a combined 12 years in the state Legislature. Under Proposal B, an individual could serve 14 years in the state Legislature–6 in the House and 8 in the Senate. The 2022 ballot measure would allow for 12 years, which is less than Proposal B; however, a legislator could serve that entire time in one legislative chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-16) said, “In my view, Michigan’s current term limits discourage good people from running for office, shifting the power from the people to the bureaucracy and interest groups, which negatively impacts the legislative process.”

The ballot measure contains a second provision on financial disclosure statements for elected state legislative and state executive officials. Under the proposal, they would be required to file annual financial disclosure reports on their income, assets, liabilities, gifts from lobbyists, positions held in certain organizations, and agreements on future employment beginning in April 2024. 

A political action committee, Voters for Transparency and Term Limits, was collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to change the term limits and require financial disclosure statements. The group called on the Legislature to act sooner. “We’re gaining momentum, and we are determined to get this proposal on the ballot in November. The sooner we can start a healthy debate between Michiganders about amending our state constitution, the better off we will be,” said Rich Studley, a former Michigan Chamber of Commerce CEO and co-chairperson of Voters for Transparency and Term Limit.

Patrick Anderson, one of the principal authors of Proposal B, responded to the legislative process, which saw the amendment introduced and passed on the same day. He said, “Not a single citizen in the entire state has had a chance to take a look at the resolution they passed, ambushing the voters before noon. The stench of this will last all the way to November.” 

The constitutional amendment is the first ballot measure certified for the 2022 ballot in Michigan. Voters could see additional legislative referrals, along with citizen-initiated ballot measures. The deadline to file signatures for initiated statutes is June 1, and the deadline for initiated constitutional amendments is July 11. 

Michigan voters have approved most (10 of 11) constitutional amendments put on the ballot by the Legislature since 1985. The last time voters rejected a legislatively referred constitutional amendment was in 2015, when 80% voted against a proposal to increase the fuel excise tax, eliminate the sales tax on fuel, increase the earned income tax credit, and make other tax and spending changes.

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