Lawmakers want to give voters a chance to reconsider term limits.

Sort of.

The latest drive to refer a ballot measure to voters is not, as term limit supporters have suggested in a well-financed ad campaign, an effort to subvert the will of the voters.

Instead, its a chance for voters to examine the evidence and make a prudent revision to the term limit law voted into place in 1992.

The proposal would retain the overall 12 year cap on service in the legislature, but remove the internal limits of six years in the House and eight in the Senate.

The full impact of term limits was not realized until the 1999 session of the legislature and the subsequent 2000 primary and general elections.

In 1999, the legislature arrived in Salem chock full of fresh faces one-third of the membership were in their first term, and not a single legislator could boast more than four years service.

What ensued was less than productive.

The inexperience of the freshmen became legendary as the new lawmakers struggled to make sense of how the legislature works. Social liberals and conservatives alike flogged away at pet issues like abortion and environment for weeks before realizing that the job of the legislature isnt to legislate morals its to pass a fiscally sound budget.

Then, as many of the legislatures most experienced members signed off due to term limits, these seasoned leaders faced off in bids for higher office.

Term limit supporters would probably tell you that the graduation of leaders like Lynn Snodgrass and Lynn Lundquist to bids for higher office was a function of vanity.

We see it differently. They were leaders just beginning to hit their stride, cut down early by term limits. Bids for higher office were reasonable avenues for both Snodgrass and Lundquist to take in answering their call to public service.

Neither stands very tall on the political scene now, however, a loss for all of Oregon after Lundquist was lost in the primary and Snodgrass in the general.

We support referring the repeal of internal term limits to the voters, and will argue strenuously for the measures approval.

However, voters should also be given the opportunity to repeal term limits, period.

The arbitrary limits hamper democracy by forcing experienced and viable candidates from participating in the system.

Term limit supporters have failed all along to see the limits inherent in the vote. If a representative or senator doesnt meet muster, the voters will send him or her packing.

But term limit supporters dont trust the voters. Instead, they have given us a flawed system.

And it is a system that reduces the legislature to the lawmaking equivalent of a varsity basketball team with a roster full of freshman and sophomores, forced to play while the juniors and seniors watch idly from the bleachers.

Oregon deserves better than that.