Mustang Brief

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On Monday, Kay Bailey Hutchison proposed a plan to reform Texas’s government. A term limit for governors is the most high-profile proviso, but Hutchison also included measures intended to curb lobbyists’ influence in Austin and a number of other sensible policies.

This is a smart political maneuver on Hutchison’s part. She’s running to replace Texas’s current governor, Rick Perry, whom she’s criticized as beholden to special interests. The race has been pretty nasty, and Hutchison stands to pick up ground by running as a candidate of reform against Texas’s longest-serving governor.

But Hutchison’s proposal isn’t just good politics; it’s good policy, too. The line between lobbyists and public officials can be fuzzier than it should. Special interests tend to have too much power in state governments. While a reform bill wouldn’t eliminate that problem, it would show resolve on the part of the legislature to separate an official’s public duty to her constituents from her private duty to her own finances.

The term limit for governors is also overdue. Perry has been governor since 2000, and if he wins reelection this year, he’ll be around for at least another four years. That’s too much power for one person to wield for so long.

Change is important in government. The best way for that to happen is to elect a new chief executive every once in a while. A new administration brings with it fresh ideas and different priorities, helping chart a new direction. Allowing a governor to serve for eight years before requiring him to step down is a reasonable check on entrenched interests.

Hutchison’s proposal is especially notable because, if enacted, it will limit the power of the office she hopes to win. Politicians almost always try to increase their sway; very rarely do they offer to reduce it. Hutchison deserves a lot of credit for falling in the latter camp.
Hutchison still has to prove that she’s the best choice for governor. But with this proposal, she’s off to a good start.

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