Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hancock: Restrictions needed on legislators becoming lobbyists

In an interview with Springfield News-Leader Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger, former Seventh District Congressman Mel Hancock continued to sound on the theme expressed in a letter to the editor earlier this week: It is time to get rid of term limits and the revolving door between the legislature and high-paying lobbying positions:

Hancock looks at the recent resignation of House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden, who's giving up the office the people of his district elected him to, so he can become a lobbyist. The thought is revolting to him.

"They are lobbying from the instant they get out," he says of far too many outgoing elected officials. "I think some of them are lobbying for these jobs before they leave."

The culprit, and the reason Hancock has changed his mind about term limits, is the same old target he's had from the beginning of his political career. Big government.

"What I didn't recognize is how big government had grown," Hancock says. He thumbs through his paperback version of the Federalist Papers and recalls the founding fathers' vision. "They didn't envision that government would overwhelm a free society and that's what's going on."

Part of the solution — at least at the state level — Hancock now believes, is to get rid of the term limits that help encourage the flow of government officials into cushy jobs where they work to make government even bigger. He'd like to see a few more mavericks, elected officials who can establish a sense of independence, men and women of maturity, who can avoid the temptations so widespread in the capital city and the D.C. Beltway.

"There are a lot of good people in government," Hancock says. "But the good people leave."

In the column, Hancock says he would like to see legislators required to wait two years after leaving office to take lobbying jobs and he would like to have a study commissioned to see what the effect of term limits has been and see what jobs legislators have taken upon leaving office.

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