Term limits keep lid on power play

first_imgIf 12 years are so vital for elected officials to gain the “necessary” experience, why extend legislative term limits but not statewide office limits? What makes 12 years vital for a legislator but eight years plenty for the attorney general or governor? Are legislators slower learners? Do the actions of the current legislative majority justify rewarding them with extended terms in office? Last session the state budget deficit was ignored. Real education reform was not on the agenda. The pending financial disaster of state and local government unfunded health care and pension commitments was disregarded. Redistricting reform was killed in a blatant show of political power. Someday the Legislature may seriously address the state’s major challenges. But until then, term limits are the only functioning check on incumbent power. Pete Schabarum and Lew Uhler co-authored Proposition 140 and co-chaired the Yes on Proposition 140 campaign.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! An idea circulating in the Capitol – now a Senate bill – is to add an additional primary date in February 2008, ostensibly to make California a player in the presidential primaries. But the real purpose of the proposal is to provide a vehicle for an initiative extending terms to get on the ballot in time for Senate President Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu ez – the Democrat legislative leaders – to stay in power a few more years. There is talk that a redistricting measure might be placed on the same 2008 ballot, but there is no assurance that any redistricting measure would be fair or would pass. We shouldn’t be lured into the web these currently term-limited legislators are weaving for their personal benefit. Term limits work to promote diversity in the Legislature. The 2006 growth in the African-American Caucus would not have occurred if the incumbents had not been removed by term limits. The massive growth in Latino representation from seven legislative seats in 1990 to 23 in 2000 would not have occurred without the twin powers of the court-drawn 1990s redistricting plan and term limits. And the number of women in the Legislature exploded when term limits took effect. Term limits work to promote competition. The current rules remove the incumbency advantage at least every eight years, and most legislators decline or fail to jump to the other house. Legislators’ zeal to extend their own careers only reinforces the voters’ belief in strict term limits. CALIFORNIA’S term limits work. That is a revolutionary idea in Sacramento these days, but the voters agree. Adopted in 1990 with 52 percent of the vote, recent surveys show that public support has increased since then: Between 65 percent and 70 percent of California voters now support the state’s term-limits laws. The efficacy of term limits is clear. Once the self-proclaimed “Ayatollah of the Assembly” Willie Brown was termed out of office, no successor has seized equivalent power. Yet despite the strong voter support for term limits, most legislators can’t wait to extend their terms. The irony is that the complaining legislators wouldn’t even be in Sacramento but for the fact that term limits opened up the very seats they now occupy. last_img read more