The drumbeat is starting to abolish term limits. It’s obvious that term limits and inexperienced legislators have resulted in lobbyists becoming inordinately influential, right? We all know that.
Oh yeah? Then why do lobbyists vehemently oppose term limits – and support their repeal?
I’ll tell you why. I was there, a state senator for 10 years. There is not a shadow of doubt that legislators become more chummy with lobbyists, not less, as they stay on through the years. Newly elected legislators tend to be coltish, idealistic and hard to influence. Sure, they have a lot to learn about traditions and procedures, but it isn’t rocket science. Most are fully functioning within a couple of months and the slow learners really don’t affect the legislature’s work product.
It is after a legislator has been around a while that they learn the advantages of going along to get along. For better or worse, relationships with lobbyists mature and, as in any friendship, mutual favors are exchanged. I could name names which you would recognize (but I won’t) of legislators totally dependent on lobbyists for everything from info on bills to campaign funds. These legislators were inevitably the ones who had been around for several years.
I’m not categorically anti-lobbyist. They’re just paid representatives of the voters who hire them to represent their interests in the democratic process. Everybody likes their own lobbyist and resents the “special interest” lobbyists of other people. With minor exceptions, lobbyists are scrupulously honest because their viability depends on having a good reputation.
But, believe me, the last thing they want to see is all the relationships that they have built up going away and a new group of legislators to deal with. There may be reasons to abolish term limits, but throwing lobbyists under the bus isn’t one of them.
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Bio: Patterson is the volunteer chairman of the Goldwater Institute and past chairman of the Arizona Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
He has served on several community boards, including Goodwill of Central Arizona, Diamondbacks Foundation and Hospice of the Valley.
He is the state chairman for Americans for Tax Reform. Previously, he served as the President of the Arizona Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council (public sector chair). He was the minority leader (91-92) and majority leader (93-96) of the Arizona Senate.
He is a registered Republican but not politically active. In addition, he was the organizer and lead tenor of the original Arizona Singing Senators.