National Shake-Up Brings ‘Fresh’ Faces to Government


Indiana’s 24 new members of the General Assembly make for an unusually large freshman class. But how about these House newcomer totals: 60 of 110 total in Michigan; 75 of 163 in Missouri; and 128 of 400 in New Hampshire? What will be the impact? Stateline reports:

If you see someone wandering around lost in the Michigan Capitol when the state House and Senate convene next month, there’s a good chance it will be a legislator. The 110-member House of Representatives will include 60 newcomers — all of whom will arrive in Lansing without any state legislative experience whatsoever.

The huge turnover in the Michigan House — the result not only of an unhappy electorate, but also of strict term limits that forced out 34 incumbents — has many political observers wondering what will happen when so many novices suddenly find themselves with so much power over the direction of state policy.

“It’s almost impossible to forecast,” says Craig Ruff, a Lansing political consultant who estimates more than 90 percent of all members of the Michigan House will have no more than two years on the job. At the very least, Ruff says, it could make for some interesting political theater, even within the newly elected Republican majority, as first-term members may not wish to be shepherded by their own legislative leaders.

“It’s much harder to enforce discipline when people aren’t accustomed to being disciplined,” Ruff says, noting that some lawmakers may be inclined to ask a simple question of their leaders: “I’ve got one vote. You’ve got one vote. What makes you so supreme?”

Similar scenarios may emerge in other capitols. The 2010 election cycle is frequently noted for its historic turnover in governor’s mansions, with 28 new chief executives about to take office in the coming weeks. But because of term limits, retirements and the ouster of hundreds of incumbents nationwide this year, there will also be a huge number of state legislators coming to the job for the first time. In many states, including Maryland, Nevada and Maine, incoming freshmen have already taken crash courses on everything ranging from the basics of legislative procedure to the right way to speak with reporters.

Nationwide, the turnover in state legislatures will be about 25 percent, a number that Tim Storey, an elections analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, describes as an “extraordinarily high” number in a non-redistricting year.

In several states, as in Michigan, first-time legislators will comprise roughly half of all members in one or both chambers, bringing a new and unpredictable dynamic to statehouses where clout and experience often rule. In Arkansas, for example, where term limits ensured plenty of turnover even before ballots were cast, 44 of 100 members of the state House will be new next year, with no state-level legislative experience under their belts.

In next-door Missouri, 75 of 163 House members will be state legislative novices. So large is the class of “true freshman” GOP representatives in the Missouri House that it outnumbers the chamber’s entire Democratic caucus, as well as the number of returning Republicans.

In New Hampshire, which does not have term limits, the 400-member House of Representatives — the largest state legislative chamber in the nation — will have 128 fresh faces next year, all of them new to the business of state lawmaking.

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