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Big pig tours Michigan in defense of term limits

JEFF TILLMAN OF FREEMONT, Michigan, displays a hog he’s towed to the Upper Peninsula to protest efforts to roll back Michigan’s 1992 term limit law. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — An 18-foot hog is out and about to protest ongoing efforts to ease Michigan’s term limits.

Jeff Tillman of Freemont is towing the foam and metal sculpture across the state to symbolize “gluttonous” attempts by lawmakers to remain at the public trough. Printing on the pinkish hog reads “Don’t Touch Our Term Limits!”

Tillman is a member of a non-partisan, non-profit organization formed to defend a 1992 term limit law added to the Michigan Constitution through a ballot initiative. His protest is prompted by a lawsuit filed Nov. 20 by a group of former legislators who claim the law makes state government less effective.

Meanwhile, a group that includes Republican legislative leaders and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has announced it’s considering putting the question to voters through a ballot initiative.

State representatives may now serve three, two-year terms while state senators are limited to two, four-year terms. Tillman’s group, headed by his son Scott Tillman of Grand Rapids, says attempts to alter that schedule are self-serving.

“Nothing makes lobbyists squeal like losing legislators to term limits,” Scott Tillman said in a news release from Don’t Touch Term Limits!

“We will do everything in our power to stop this undemocratic power grab and defend the will of Michigan citizens,” he said.

The legal action being protested seeks a federal court order to throw out the term limit law so it can be replaced with one that’s less stringent.

“It’s when you’ve got the shortest duration with a lifetime ban that’s harshest in the nation where it’s problematic,” the plaintiffs’ lead attorney and former Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch told mlive.com. “There’s probably a healthy mix somewhere in the middle that would be perfectly constitutional,” he said.

According to Scott Tillman, the lawsuit is proof the current system works. “When lobbyists and career politicians team up to overturn term limits, we can be certain we have something worth fighting to keep,” he said.

The hog, which weighs about 800 pounds, has attracted attention at stops throughout the western Upper Peninsula.

“People follow me into restaurants,” Jeff Tillman said. “Everybody wants a good picture.”

A sign on the sculpture’s trailer asks residents to contact state Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, to defend term limits.

Markkanen told the Ironwood Daily Globe this week he has no intention of working to change term limits in Michigan and wouldn’t support any legislative effort to remove them.

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