The original intent of California's term limits law was to end the era of career politicians and cultivate a new breed of citizen-legislator to focus on the needs of their constituents. But things haven't turned out that way.
The author of the original law, former Republican Assemblymember Pete Schabarum, laments that that law is not working as he intended. In an article in the Los Angeles Times, he said his hope was that term limits would encourage a new type of "citizen legislator," one who would serve for a period of time but return to private life, allowing new individuals to offer their ideas and perspectives to government. Unfortunately, that has not been the result.
Legislators' time in office is limited by terms ó three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year terms in the Senate. This has created a merry-go-round of legislators who are more focused on running for their next office than doing the job voters elected them to do. In addition, thereís a loophole in the current law that allows a legislator to serve up to nearly 17 years, by filling a special election vacancy for a partial term.
Proposition 28 is a simple reform that fixes the term limits law. It closes the 17-year loophole, and places a hard 12-year limit on legislatorsí time in office. Allowing legislators to serve that time in either the Assembly or the State Senate is also valuable reform, as it will allow legislators to focus on their districts, rather than spending their energy lining up support to run for their next office.
Contrary to what opponents of Proposition 28 and defenders of the status quo will tell you, current and former legislators are prohibited from using Proposition 28 to extend their lifetime limits in office.
To be sure, Proposition 28 wonít fix every problem we have today. But itís a step in the right direction that will result in less time for politics, and more time for legislators to focus on the job we need them to do.
Thatís why Proposition 28 is supported by a coalition of business and labor along with dozens of broad-based local and statewide organizations including the League of Women Voters of California and California Common Cause. It also has the support of nearly all major newspapers ó Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News and the San Diego Union-Tribune ó in California.
What convinced us to sponsor Proposition 28 is a fundamental understanding that the status quo is not working, and that we need a simple reform to term limits that will make our legislators more accountable and focused on their jobs. Proposition 28 does just that.
On June 5, we urge a "YES" vote on Proposition 28.
And that's The Business Perspective.
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