Term limits could alter local Assembly race
February 1, 2008
GRASS VALLEY — A proposal tweaking the state’s term limits for legislators on next Tuesday’s ballot could alter the 3rd District Assembly seat race and others if voters approve the proposition.
Proposition 93 would shrink the number of years elected officials can serve in the state Legislature to 12 years from 14 years. Though the proposition decreases the total years, it allows legislators to serve all the years in one chamber.
Truckee-area Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, can’t seek another term under the existing rules, but he has admitted that he would consider running again if Prop. 93, which he doesn’t support, is approved by voters.
Nevada County Supervisor Sue Horne, who already has put her hat in the Republican primary race for Keene’s seat, said she doesn’t believe the proposition will pass and is “entirely focused” on winning the primary.
Horne is running against Yuba County Supervisor Dan Logue and Chico farmer Jack Lee for the Republican nomination.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” said Horne, adding she hasn’t made any decision about what she’ll do if the proposition passes. “I can’t run my race on that ‘what if.'”
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Horne, who supports the existing term limits approved by voters in 1990, describes the new proposal as a “self serving” measure allowing key Democratic leaders to retain their leadership positions.
“They created the February election to put Proposition 93 there,” said Horne, referring to Democratic legislative leaders. “It’s their desire to pass it, so they can stay in power.”
Proposition proponents include the state Democratic Party, Republican and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and California Small Business Association president Betty Jo Toccoli.
Supporters say the proposed change would allow legislators to spend more time “working for taxpayers and less time worrying about which office to run for next,” according to the Voter Information Guide argument.
“If they get a longer term in one house, they’re not thinking of running in the other house,” said Margaret Joehnck, chairwoman of the Nevada County Democratic Central Committee.
“I think we need that kind of experience in the Legislature,” Joehnck said. In the existing term limits structure, lobbyists can have more power because they deal with more inexperienced politicians, she added.
The Nevada County Democratic Central Committee has not taken a formal stand on the proposition.
GOP leaders including Bill Neuharth, chairman of the Nevada County Republican Central Committee, disagreed with Joehnck’s view and had a similar perspective as Horne.
“It’s a proposition to increase terms and for legislators to figure out a way to stay longer,” said Neuharth.
Although no formal vote was taken, the committee generally opposes the measure, Neuharth said.
Keene isn’t about to campaign against the proposition at the last minute.
“It’s not right for him to be out campaigning for or against it,” said Keene spokesman Evan Oneto.
If he did support the proposition, it would appear self serving, Keene told The Union, the Sierra Sun’s sister newspaper, in November.