State Sen. John Alario was recently honored last week for his 48 years of service in the Louisiana Legislature. On the one hand, his accomplishments are many, but on the other hand, he epitomizes why Louisiana continually ranks last or near last in so many national polls. Can you imagine how many times someone with that many years in our Legislature has had to make deals with lobbyists and special interest groups in order to ensure he maintains the financial backing necessary to keep getting reelected?
Presently there is no such thing as strict, terminal term limits in our state legislature, only pseudo term limits. One is simply limited to two consecutive, four- year terms of service in a particular house, but can immediately run for election to the opposite house. This can result in the same individuals perpetually jumping back and forth between the House of Representatives and the Senate year after year.
Some will argue that this flip-flop system is good because it ensures that we will always have experienced individuals in charge of passing legislation that will be beneficial to their constituents. Sadly, it is the well-financed special interest groups that are the primary beneficiaries of such a system and not necessarily the Louisiana voters. Any bill or legislation presented and voted upon by legislators under our present system of pseudo-term limits is always framed in terms of how it bests serves those with the financial backing that the legislators need for their reelection.
We only need to look at their voting records surrounding the nursing home industry, gas, petroleum and chemical industry, and casino industry to see who has the most influence over our legislators. In fact, regarding the nursing home industry, many of our legislators have blatant conflicts of interest for they either own or are heavily invested in such entities.
We also have ourselves to blame for the perpetual recycling of the same legislators because many times voters keep reelecting these individuals simply because of name recognition. The governor of this state can’t serve for more than two consecutive 4-year terms so why should we permit legislators to serve due to a term limit loophole?
The term limit law for our legislators needs to be revised and clearly defined as two consecutive terms in either house of government, and then you’re done for at least two years. You could serve two consecutive terms (eight years total) in the House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate, and you could not run for the other after your term expires. Simply put, you would be out of the state Legislature for a minimum of two years, and you'd need to find another job.