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Proposals to limit the terms of state legislators have been the subject of public policy debate since 1990, when citizen initiatives limiting the terms of legislators were passed by voters in California, Colorado and Oklahoma. Subsequently, 18 other states adopted term limits, but in four - Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming - term limits were thrown out by the state supreme courts, and they have been repealed by the legislatures in Idaho and Utah. That leaves 15 states with term limits for legislators. See our current list of states with term limits for legislators.
The Clock’s Ticking…
1996 was the first year term limits took effect. In Maine, 26 House members and four senators were ineligible to run for re-election in 1996. In California, 22 members of the Assembly could not run. Over the period between 1996 – 2010, 2,244 state legislators were prevented by term limits from running for re-election. See our year-by-year summary of the number of legislators termed out for more information.
Efforts to Repeal or Amend Term Limits
As term limits begin to take effect, many of their impacts on the legislative institution are negative. Besides making institutional changes to cope with the negative effects, some legislatures consider bills to modify or repeal the limits. See the database of term limits legislation introduced from 1999 thru 2011.