As surely as the sun rises and sets, legislators will legislate.

Some legislation is timely and necessary, addressing public safety, education, energy, health care and state financial issues. But there is plenty of distracting, misguided and unnecessary legislation, too, a problem compounded by lawmakers lacking historical knowledge because of term limits.

Many will recall the great 2011 debate over which Maine confections should gain recognition as the state’s official “treat” and “dessert.” After six weeks of deliberation, the whoopie and blueberry pies prevailed, respectively.

Presently the Legislature is debating the official state dog and a measure to ensure there are precisely 16 ounces of beer in every advertised “pint.” Crises both.

Advocates claim these bills engage uninterested constituents in the legislative process. Perhaps so. But do they draw those same constituents into the Legislature’s more tedious and consequential policy debates? I doubt it. These bills are a waste of taxpayer money. And they cry out for reforming our legislative process.

Currently, every bill, no matter its merits, gets a public hearing. It doesn’t matter if the bill was debated and defeated repeatedly in prior Legislatures. It doesn’t matter if it’s poorly conceived or a trivial distraction. Each progresses inexorably through the legislative process, consuming the collective time, energy, resources and expertise of our 186-member legislature, staff, lobbyists, department heads, advocacy organizations, businesses and others.

The problem is that Maine’s legislative leadership structure is weakly founded, preventing officers from exercising control over the 1,500 pieces of legislation advanced this session alone.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

In fact, we have an existing reform model at our fingertips. In the so-called “short” or second legislative session, bills are approved by the Legislative Council (composed of leaders from both parties) before they progress to a public hearing.

Why not empower the council to exercise its discretion in both the short and long sessions? It’s a simple solution that ensures a measure of bipartisan consultation and appeal. It also makes the selection of legislative leaders far more consequential, requiring the elevation of seasoned, steely negotiators and savvy deal-makers.

With the current partisan divide between the House and Senate, the council is evenly divided at five Republicans and Democrats apiece. When a single party controls both chambers, the council is also controlled by the majority. But so be it. As the saying goes, elections have consequences.

Extending the Legislative Council construct to the first session would allow party leaders to keep their respective caucuses focused and on message, preventing well-meaning but inexperienced or extreme legislators from hijacking the process and squandering both time and resources.

If Democrats want to focus on “good jobs and strong wages” as they claim, party leaders should enjoy the ability to maintain that focus, leaving other distractions on the Revisor’s Office floor. For their part, I’m sure Republicans would be happy to avoid another debate on banning “Agenda 21” in Maine.

The governor and state agencies would still retain the right to offer their own bills at any time without progressing through the council process, creating another avenue for legislation to advance to committee. (Again, elections have consequences).

Rank and file legislators will likely cry foul, claiming they’re being disempowered. But it forces them to make a credible case to bipartisan leadership that their legislation is necessary, timely and expedient. State Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, did that successfully and publicly with her 2013 human trafficking bill, even when Democrats controlled the council.

At the same time we implement the Legislative Council reform, we should eliminate our arbitrary and misguided term limits. As currently constructed, term limits force career legislators to bounce awkwardly and endlessly between the House and Senate. If the goal was to eliminate career politicians, the 1993 voter approved referendum can lay claim to a meager record of success. (See: Martin, John.)

To the extent the law is achieving its desired end, it repeatedly guts the institutional knowledge of the Legislature each cycle, forcing a massive re-education of members. This session there are 15 new members in the 35-person Maine Senate (43 percent) and 66 new members in the 151-member House (44 percent).

That’s a lot of neophytes and, practically speaking, the turnover only empowers legislative staff and, more worryingly, lobbyists. Neither group was elected by the people but both effectively become the indispensable repository of institutional history, procedures and outcomes.

We should trust Maine voters to impose their own version of term limits by casting ballots to either re-elect or reject their incumbents every other November. These changes would make the legislative process more relevant, efficient and effectual. It’s rarely any of those right now.

Michael Cuzzi manages the Boston and Portland offices of VOX Global, a strategic communications and public affairs firm headquartered in Washington. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @CuzziMJ