While that is not a record, it is a large number of new faces in the body if one looked at the 2011 class picture and the upcoming 2013 photograph of the representatives.
The state Senate won’t have such turnover, but, still, more than 20 percent of the body could be new.
This leads to the obvious question of whether Utah should have term limits in the 104 member, part-time Legislature.
Years ago I used to be against term limits. I believed like constitutional purists that elections every two years for the 75-member House and four years for the 29-member Senate were, in and of themselves, reasonable checks and balances.
But after having closely observed the 2011 redistricting of legislative seats – the fourth such redistricting I’ve watched – I again come to my re-evaluated stand on term limits.
I believe they are needed.
Terms of lawmakers should be capped at 12 years.
That would allow for a House member to term limit out after six terms. He or she could then move to the Senate and have three more terms there.
And at 24 years in the Utah Legislature, that should be enough for any sane person.
You might recall that years ago the GOP-controlled Legislature in fact did pass a term limit law – 12 years.
They just didn’t include any current legislators under that limit.
And, you guessed it, when they approached the 12-year limit, legislators repealed the term limit law.
It was a cynical move by a group of folks who, time has shown, look out after No. 1 more often than not.
Now, there are those who would say that having one-third turnover in a 75-member body from one election cycle to another is proof positive that term limits are not needed.
Voters and political events – like retirements and deaths – take care of themselves.
History shows, however, that in non-redistricting years between 80 percent and 90 percent of lawmakers who chose to seek re-election win.
Remember that 2012 is a redistricting year. And a number of the turnovers coming next year are a result of that redrawing of legislative districts.
Of course, lawmakers themselves redraw their own districts. Which leads to the debate every 10 years if such clear self-service is a good thing.
No matter how fair or unbiased legislative redistricting may be, such a huge conflict of interest can’t be erased or made to make sense, in my opinion.
Yes, other states, like Idaho to our north, have had real problems with so-called “unbiased” citizen redistricting commissions.
But along with reasonable term limits, a citizen redistricting commission would greatly aid in not only the appearance of self-service but the reality, as well.
By far most of the 104 legislative districts are non-competitive in Utah – they are either heavily Republican or heavily Democratic.
And with both parties having the 70 percent nomination rule in their party conventions, all too often the ultimate winner of a legislative seat is decided by a small number of county or state party delegates.
The final November elections are, in reality, more of a sustaining than a true election.
That caucus/convention system must also be reformed. But that’s another issue.
For now, the best way to ensure a reasonable turnover in the Utah Legislature is to have term limits.
While institutional history is important, so is new blood.
If a legislator can’t accomplish the reforms he wishes in 12 years, it’s likely those reforms aren’t what Utahns, via their elected lawmakers, wish in the first place.
If he can’t establish a political base from which he seeks higher office in 12 years it’s not going to happen in 14 or 20 years either.
If he can’t fulfill his desire to serve the public within 12 years, such desires run closer to obsession than real public service anyway.
Legislating is not meant to be a career. One is supposed to step in, do the work, and step out.
While there may be some challenges in the 2013 Legislature because so many of the members will be new, those should be welcomed challenges.
A sustained, reasonable turnover in the Legislature is a good thing. And it should be ensured via term limit retirements.