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No Term Limits on 2014 Ballot; What to Do About Slow Learners in Legislature?

South Dakota voters won't get to vote for term limits on the 2014 ballot. Well, actually, they'll have the usual opportunity to limit the terms of local incumbents like Jason Frerichs, Phil Jensen, Steve Hickey, and Fred Romkema. They just won't get to vote on either of the constitutional amendments legislators proposed to change the term limits under which they labor.

Rep. Stace Nelson wanted to tighten term limits; Rep. Charlie Hoffman wanted to loosen them. My analysis of South Dakota electoral history showed that South Dakota voters don't really need either proposal. Both constitutional amendments died, Rep. Hoffman's just this week before an unsympathetic Senate.

But before we close those resolutional caskets, permit me to mention Rep. Hoffman's main reason for wanting to extend term limits from eight consecutive years to twelve in each chamber. Before a Miller crackerbarrel crowd and on South Dakota Public Radio, Rep. Hoffman said longer term limits would benefit slow learners in the Legislature:

"When you come into the House or Senate and you are a freshman, it’s a straight-up learning jump. You don’t have a curve; you have to get it right off the bat," Hoffman says. "You have to learn how to do process. You have to learn how to be a good committee member. You have to learn the rules in either house that you’re on" [Kealey Bultena, "Term Limit Extension Proposal Alive," SDPB Radio, 2014.03.03].

Experience matters, in legislating as in any other job. But I don't think we need to amend our state constitution to address that vertically asymptotic learning curve that Rep. Hoffman finds so daunting. Maybe the solution to that problem is much simpler: maybe we should just elect smarter legislators.


  1. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.08

    I think there is merit to Rep. Hoffman's argument. Other than changing term limits, I wonder if a week's training session for new legislators might be a very good idea. Perhaps it could be held in November. If not a full week, at least 3 days.

    There ought to be some veteran, sitting legislators there too. They could run through mock sessions with mock bills. They could hit a wide variety of contingencies.


  2. grudznick 2014.03.08

    Ms. Geelsdottir/, are you suggesting having these rookies debate abortion, texting, banning gays from restaurants, and some random gun bills in November to get them ready for January? That may be one of your best ideas, ma'am.

  3. rollin potter 2014.03.08

    Yes mr. hoffman,how to become a good committee member!!!!
    Sit down and shut up and do what the republican grunts want you to do and say!!!!!

  4. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.08

    Why thank you so much Mr. Grudz!

    I'm thinking having 3+ days to find various offices, restrooms, phones, copiers, committee rooms, etc. Where to stay in Pierre/Ft. Pierre, where to eat, all the logistics stuff. What each committee does, how many options for a bill, how many votes, protocol, how to hoghouse, smoke out, who to talk to, how to handle lobbyists, etc. What happens in caucuses, how to most effectively support or oppose a bill. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    "Committee voted down my bill. I don't want to give up. What else can I do?"

    "My constituents are very opposed to a bill, but I don't think they understand all the ramifications of it. I don't have time to go back home. What is the most effective way to explain my vote tomorrow?"

    The clearer a legislator is on run-of-the-mill stuff, the more brain power and less distraction they'll face as they begin working on legislation.

    That's the gist of it. How do you like me now, Mr. Grudz?

  5. mike from iowa 2014.03.09

    With one party rule,freshmen(women) seem to be learning really bad habits from the get go. Learning to play well with others and share and work together,acceptance of people different from you and most importantly learning to listen respectfully to other views should top the agenda in a non-partisan pre-kindergarten class for newbies. Then they should be graded on how well they use these useful tools and integrate themselves into public service.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.03.09

    Practice makes perfect, Deb! Debate coaches do the same thing with students participating in Student Congress, holding some practice Congresses before taking the kids to the big national-qualifying contest. Asking the newly elected legislators to take another three days out of their schedule (the week of the Governor's budget address would be perfect) is another barrier to entry to the job for working people, but we need to do it. Maybe do it over a weekend?

  7. Douglas Wiken 2014.03.09

    Utilize the wonders of the internet and middle of the night SDPB-TV dissemination of video seminars to give the new legislators some information prior to spending time in lessons in Pierre. Maybe a few legislators able to use a DVD recorder and a computer might be a help.

  8. Donald Pay 2014.03.09

    Uh, no. There is a learning curve for procedure, but the best way to learn is by doing. The fact that there are too many "slow learners" is the result of voters electing stupid people. You get the Legislature you deserve, folks, and term limits have the advantage of clearing those "slow learners" out after 8 years, rather than having them hang around to be butt boys for lobbyists for twenty years.

  9. Mark Schuler 2014.03.09

    After eight years, your out, period! A percentage of newbies will always have fresh ideas and limit the eight yr olds with dominating the floor. This country was built on ideas and working together for the greater good. Seems to me that went out the window 35-40 years ago.

  10. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.03.09

    Mr Wiken has the right idea. Use the internet and or SD Public TV, middle of the night sessions. But I would expand on the idea. How about some of these sessions prior to the nominating season, so that, would be candidates could get an idea of what they are running for, before they circulate their nominating petitions.

    For one thing it might eliminate the "I need to give up my seat because of my job or I need to spend more time with my family." There should be some sort of penalty, if not to the individual, at least to the party for an elected candidate resigning their position before the term for which they were elected, for any issue other than health.

  11. Charlie Hoffman 2014.03.12

    It is too bad that the Senate killed my term limit bill after I promised to promote it to the people but being an optimist now that won't get in the way of fishing and hunting and spending time with my family including a new grandson.

    Stuff that really matters....................

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