Yes on Prop 28 (Eric’s Endorsement)
It’s kind of a no-brainer to me, because I think that term limitations for legislative positions are a dumb idea anyway. It’s particularly ironic that the whole concept was cooked up by conservatives often opposed to what they call the “nanny state” and yet feel compelled to save voters from themselves. So anything that weakens term limits and restores electorate choice is fine with me to begin with. If anything, I’m annoyed that the proponents felt compelled to actually lower the maximum potential from 14 years (and the big whoop “loophole” that allows up to 17 years if someone comes in after a legislator kicked the bucket during his/her first year in office) to 12 years.
On a more practical note, term limits in California have really hurt rural areas. Those darned “career politicians” representing the lower population zones used to bide their time, get into the right committees, and toss some money our way. But now that everyone has to think in terms of lateral and upward movement before they’ve even really learned how to legislate, the emphasis is on the concentrated population centers – where the voters are who will send the more clever pols to a statewide position. This is why school bus funds are so easily cut. It’s also why San Rafael road widening takes precedence over Willits Bypass (not that I necessarily disagree with that priority in particular).
Also, with the decline in institutional memory and information, legislators are increasingly dependent upon information provided to them by lobbyists. And sometimes legislation is bogged down because of collective inexperience, where some legislators are forced to leave just as they’re figuring the job out. And they’ve brought on a slew of other problems. Here’s a pdf report by some policy think tank I’ve never heard of which outlines in what seems to be a responsible manner a number of problems with term limits in Arizona. It’s a good read, worth your time unless you’re really convinced that our own legislature works better in 2012 than it did in 1990.
Okay, so what does Prop 28 do in mitigation? It doesn’t end term limits. It doesn’t extend them. It’s actually kind of lame. But it’s something.
Currently a pols time in the legislature is limited to three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year terms in the Senate. You can serve in both, so basically you can serve for a maximum of 14 years. The proponents are lowering the time to 12, and yes, that’s misleading. The opponents, mostly from the perennial tax posse and the free market/property rights extreme, are justified in their screeching about it. Well, sort of. It does actually shorten the time professional pols will stay in office. But many Assembly members don’t make it into the more elite Senate, so the overall years in office for incumbents will be extended.
Basically, you have 12 years in office, if the voters will have you. You can do it in any combo. Six terms in the Assembly, three terms in the Senate, or four terms in the Assembly and one term in the Senate, and so on. And if you are appointed because someone died or left office, those years count.
So 12 years in the Assembly might help rural areas out, a little bit anyway. Of course, it doesn’t apply to anyone in office on or before June 5.
It’s not enough, but it will be a moderate improvement. That is if the voters have the sense to pass it.
Posted by Eric