Wyoming Supreme Court Strikes Down Unconstitutional Term Limits Law

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Wyoming struck down most of what remained of a 1992 ballot initiative imposing term limits on state elected officials:

Friday’s ruling covers the offices of secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction. The court didn’t rule on the question of whether term limits for the office of governor are constitutional. . . . Friday’s decision follows a 2004 Wyoming Supreme Court decision that overturned term limits for state legislators.

Voters approved term limits by initiative in 1992. The court’s ruling on Friday states that qualifications for state offices are spelled out in the Wyoming Constitution and requirements can only be changed by constitutional amendment, not state statute.

Although term limits are often popular with voters, research suggests they have proved counterproductive in the states where they exist. Rather than injecting new blood into the lawmaking process and reducing corruption, term limits lead to less experienced lawmakers who spend much of their time in office learning to do their jobs. As a result, lobbyists often enjoy much more power in states with term limits because they understand policy and the lawmaking process far better than the lawmakers themselves. Indeed, as one early study of term limits suggests, “under term limits, there are more lobbyists, these lobbyists are working harder, their ethical behavior is sometimes worse, and they wield more influence in the legislative process, although this power is more evenly distributed.”