Second attempt to modify lawmakers’ term limits fails too
February 6, 2008
LOS ANGELES (AP) – The second attempt to modify state legislators’ term limits fared only slightly better than the first.
Proposition 93 went down to defeat Tuesday as voters balked at allowing dozens of lame duck lawmakers to run for new terms. The measure was trailing 53 percent to 47 percent Wednesday morning, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.
California’s current term limits are among the toughest in the nation. They allow legislators to serve up to 14 years in most cases ” six in the Assembly and eight in the state Senate.
The measure would have cut the maximum time from 14 years to 12, but it would have allowed all 12 years to be served in one house or split between the two.
Pre-election polls showed voters supporting those changes, but a transition phase provision in the measure generated opposition. It would have allowed sitting legislators to serve 12 years in their current houses, regardless of how much time they had spent in the other house. That would have allowed nearly a third of current lawmakers to serve more than 14 years.
“Speaker Nunez and Senator Perata thought they could pull a fast one over on the voters with Proposition 93,” said state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, referring to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, the Legislature’s top leaders and key backers of Proposition 93.
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Poizner put $2.5 million of the fortune he amassed as a Silicon Valley businessman into the No-on-93 campaign.
Perata would have been able to run for one more four-year term in the Senate under the proposal, despite already serving more than 11 years in the Legislature.
Nunez would have been able to seek three more two-year terms in the Assembly if the ballot measure had passed. Without it, he’ll be termed out of the Assembly this fall but will be eligible to run for two four-year terms in the Senate.
Supporters said the proposition would have maintained reasonable term limits while easing the exodus of experienced legislators and the musical-chairs atmosphere that take place every two years at the Capitol as termed-out lawmakers scramble to run for other offices.
The transition phase was needed, the proposition’s supporters said, to protect the initiative against lawsuits claiming that the measure violated the constitution’s equal protection requirements.
Nunez said in statement that Proposition 93 “is, and always has been about making the state Legislature work better for the people of California.” He encouraged the measure’s opponents to come up with their own proposals for modifying term limits.
Proposition 93 was the second attempt to modify term limits adopted by California voters in 1990. Proposition 45 of 2002 would have allowed termed-out legislators to run for up to four more years if they obtained voter signatures equal to at least 20 percent of the vote in their last election.
It failed after getting a little more than 42 percent of the vote.