Term Limits

Oklahoma voters in 1990 approved State Question 632, which limited any member of the Legislature elected after the measure’s effective date to a maximum of 12 years of legislative service. The 12-year term limit applies to service in either legislative chamber and is a lifetime limit. SQ 632 was a citizen-led initiative petition that passed with 67.3 percent of the vote. The 12-year maximum term took effect with the election of 1992, which meant that the first legislators subject to term limits reached their limits in 2004 (Senators elected in 1990 were able to serve until 2006).

Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to approve legislative term limits. Currently 16 states have term limits ranging from six to 16 years, although some states only limit years of consecutive service and some impose limits on time served in each chamber. An additional six states have had term limits struck down by the Courts or repealed by the legislature.

In 2010, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved State Question 747 that imposed eight-year lifetime term limits on statewide elected officials – for the governor, lieutenant governor, state auditor and inspector, attorney general, state treasurer, labor commissioner, state schools superintendent and insurance commissioner. Previously, governors could not serve more than eight consecutive years but were not subject to an eight-year lifetime limit. SQ 747 also subjected corporation commissioners to a 12-year lifetime limit. These term limits only on statewide offices  applied prospectively as of 2012, which meant that current officeholders could serve an additional eight or twelve years. Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony, first elected in 1988, will be the last person in office at the time of SQ 747’s passage to hit his term limit when his 12-year limit takes effect in 2024.