As the legislative session wound to a close last week, veteran lawmakers took turns going to the microphone to give farewell speeches. This is an old custom, but it took on special significance last week because so many legislators are being forced to retire because of term limits, which finally kicked in this year for state lawmakers.
This newspaper strongly supported term limits for city and parish officials as well as for state legislators. While it's understandable that lawmakers who have spent most of their careers -- even most of their adult lives -- working the halls of power at the state Capitol would lament the effects of term limits, the truth is that it's time for many of them to move on. Yes, term limits will trigger the loss of decades (if not centuries) of cumulative institutional knowledge. On the other hand, it also will infuse "new blood" into the legislative corpus -- which is exactly what proponents and the vast majority of voters said they wanted when they voted for term limits more than a decade ago.
Few places are more change-averse than Louisiana, but change is exactly what we should expect as a result of term limits. Louisiana already will be getting a new governor in six months, why not a substantially new Legislature as well? Without term limits, it's entirely possible, even likely, that most lawmakers would have been re-elected this fall. Instead, close to half (maybe more) of the Legislature will be new faces come January.
We cannot expect term-limited lawmakers to embrace a change that closes the book on their political careers, but we hope voters will see the coming election season as a chance to champion real change for Louisiana. Thanks to term limits, opportunities like this won't be so rare in the future.