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Calif. Prop 28: Adjust Legislature term limits

May 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
State lawmakers have been subject to term limits since California voters approved Proposition 140 in 1990. Now Proposition 28 would change those term limits.

Twenty-two years ago California's voters were among the first in the nation to limit legislators terms in office. Now supporters of term limits say it's not working.

California Common Cause is one of the supporters of a measure to set new limits on how much time legislators can spend in Sacramento.

"They're always looking at whether or not they're going to run for the other house, or they're looking for another opening. Before they've even begun in one job, a lot of times they are campaigning for the next job," said Kathay Feng, executive director, California Common Cause.

A long list of, unions, individuals and groups like Common Cause have lined up to support Proposition 28.

Currently, people can serve six years in the Assembly. That's three terms. Eight years is the current limit for the state Senate, or two terms.

It's common for a member of the Assembly to start campaigning for the Senate before he or she is finished in the Assembly. Proposition 28 would cut two years off the total time they can spend in the Legislature. But it would allow a legislator to serve a total of 12 years in either the Senate or the Assembly.

So far there isn't much organized opposition. It comes from two wealthy East Coast supporters of term limits who have contributed a total of $145,000. Supporters have raised nearly $3 million.

Republican blogger Jon Fleischman is one of the few public voices and most visible opponents of Prop. 28.

"We believe that once you start to serve in that Legislature longer than about three terms, you start to go native and you care a lot more about what the lobbyists think and the special interests than you do about the people," said Fleischman.

Fleischman says the opponents' main concern is that if Prop. 28 passes, it increases the amount of time members can serve in either house. He thinks voters need to say no to changes in the current term limits.

"It will double the amount of time that members of the Assembly can serve. It will add by 50 percent the amount of times senators will serve," said Fleischman.

Supporters say the current system is legislative "musical chairs."

"We have committee heads who have less than a year's worth of experience deciding fairly major decisions for the whole state of California," said Feng.

If Prop. 28 passes, according to supporters, once legislators have served their 12 years they will never be able to go back and serve again in Sacramento.


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