If you’ve never heard of a lame duck when it comes to government, think of it this way. A politician or elected official is considered a lame duck when they are not considering reelection, or their successor is already elected, and they are waiting for their term to end. U.S. presidents in their second and final terms are considered lame ducks, as well as Congress members who announce they’re retiring.
There are positives and negatives to being a lame duck. Many say that lame duck officials have less power because they don’t have the ability to negotiate and offer favors. They also do not have as much dealmaking power since other officials know they are not coming back. On the positive side, these lame duck officials no longer have to appease the voters. They have nothing to lose when it comes to voting on issues they’re passionate about. So lame ducks at the end of their term tend to vote for what they believe in on the more controversial issues.
The term “lame duck session” often gets thrown around. The official definition of a lame duck session in Congress is when Congress reconvenes in an even-numbered year following the November general elections to consider various items of business. Some of the law makers in this session will not be returning to the next Congress, so they are considered lame ducks participating in a lame duck session. When it comes to Congress, the lame duck session can be significant because they use this time to consider important votes that they may not have had time for before.
Most recently, New Jersey has been planning on making moves toward marijuana legalization during the lame duck period that stretches from early November to early January. Right now, New Jersey lawmakers are faced with two options: vote on a proposed law to make recreational marijuana legal or place a referendum on the November 2020 ballot asking New Jersey voters to decide whether or not to legalize. In this case of a lame duck session, lawmakers are strategically waiting until this time to vote on controversial topics like marijuana legalization.
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