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Coping with Term Limits

July 26, 2023

Term limits have presented challenges to legislatures that wish to remain strong and effective institutions. However, legislatures are flexible and dynamic bodies, and they have made many adaptations to cope with these challenges. The effects of term limits and legislatures’ efforts to respond are collected and summarized in this guide to provide term limited legislatures with a comprehensive set of suggestions for dealing with the effects of term limits. Although the changes made in one state may not be practical or politically feasible in another, they are offered here in accordance with the participating organizations’ mission of ensuring the quality and effectiveness of the legislative institution.

The contents of this publication are drawn largely from the results of the Joint Project on Term Limits (JPTL). To complete this project, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the State Legislative Leaders Foundation and a group of distinguished political scientists from universities around the country worked together for three years, conducting an in-depth study of the effects of legislative term limits. The findings of the study are based on the results of two major surveys; a collection of data on the individual characteristics of all state legislators; interviews with hundreds of legislators, legislative staff and other observers of the legislative process; and a large body of data on the legislative process compiled from nine states. 

The complete results of the JPTL study have been published in Karl T. Kurtz, Bruce Cain and Richard G. Niemi, eds., Institutional Change in American Politics: The Case of Term Limits (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007)

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