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Term Limits

Term Limits

HISTORY

photo of a legislative chamberProposals to limit the terms of state legislators have been the subject of public policy debate since 1990. Since then, 21 states have adopted term limits, but court cases and repeals mean that only 15 states now have term limits for legislators.

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TERM LIMITED STATES

image of U.S. mapFifteen states currently have term limits for legislators. These can be found at The Term Limited States. It includes the year term limits were enacted, the first year where term limits had an impact and the limit itself. Also included is a table of states that had term limits in the past but no longer do because of legislative or court action.

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ILLINOIS TERM LIMITS CAMPAIGN

a dart going toward a targetIn September, Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner (R) offered a proposal to establish term limits in the Land of Lincoln.  His proposal would also shrink the size of the Illinois Senate and strengthen the governor's veto power. 

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TERM LIMITS DATABASE

image for a databaseNCSL maintains a database of legislation relating to term limits. It can be searched by state, year, status or subtopic. With this tool, finding samples of legislation or doing research on term limits is easy.

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OVERVIEW | TERM LIMITS

As term limits began to take effect starting in the late 1990s, many of their impacts on the legislative institution have been negative. Indeed, term limits have presented challenges for legislatures that wish to remain strong and effective institutions.  However, legislatures are  dynamic bodies, and they have made many adaptations to cope with these challenges. These can be explored through NCSL's publication: Coping With Term Limits, A Practical Guide.

Legislative term limits have been ruled unconstitutional by the courts in four states; see Summaries of Term Limits Cases for details.

More on legal concerns is found at Term Limits and the Courts.

See a year-by-year breakdown of the number of legislators termed out between 1996 and 2010.

 

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FEATURED

  • The Term-Limited States

    This chart shows the states with term limits and also those that have had term limits repealed or held unconstitutional.

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