by Karl Kurtz
Our posting a couple of weeks ago, "A Majority of State Legislators May Have Two Years or Less of Experience in 2013," generated considerable interest, so I thought we would provide a bit more information about the history of membership turnover in state legislatures, paying particular attention to the differences between term-limited and non-term-limited states.
Thanks to Professors Gary Moncrief (Boise State University), Richard Niemi and Lynda Powell (both of University of Rochester), we have a nice picture (click to enlarge) of how membership turnover has changed over time in houses of representatives. (For simplicity, I am presenting data only for houses because the interpretation of the data for these chambers is a little more straightforward than for senates, where many members have previous experience in the house.)
As term limits began to take effect and force legislators out of office in the mid-1990s, the gap between the two types of legislatures began to grow. By 2000, when term limit provisions had been enacted in 15 states, the gap was 19 percentage points (36 percent in TL states and 17 percent in NTL states), and the difference has remained consistently in the range of 15-20 points ever since.
The chart grapically shows Tim Storey's and my point about 2010 turnover and anticipated high turnover after the 2012 election. Within each decade, the highest rates of turnover were recorded after decennial redistricting--the years ending in "2." In 2010 turnover due to the Republican landslide of 2010 was nearly as high as it was in the redistricting year of 2002 (higher in the TL states). If membership change in 2012 is close to the average for redistricting years, we likely will have the high rates of inexperience we previously forecasted.