The idea of establishing term limits for state lawmakers in California has been around for more than two decades. This is still a solid notion, but it needs to be adjusted in order to provide the expected results. That is what Proposition 28 is all about.
In 1990, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 140. Voters were sick of the attitudes of some lawmakers who stayed in the Legislature for a long, indefinite period of time, giving the impression of having their own agenda that was completely disconnected from the wishes of their constituents. As a result, a term limit of 14 years was set, to be divided into six years in the California Assembly and eight in the Senate.
If we look at the results of this proposition during the past 20 years, we can see it did not yield the expected results. Instead of overstaying in office, lawmakers are now in each chamber for too short a period.
By the time lawmakers learn enough to manage their jobs and be efficient, for example in the Assembly, their term in that chamber is about to end. This gives excessive power to legislative advisors, who go from lawmaker to lawmaker, and to lobbyists, who are always around.
On the other hand, the current system that divides 14 years between both chambers encourages lawmakers from their first day in Sacramento to plan how to eventually get elected to a position in the other chamber, instead of tending to the concerns of the constituents that sent them to the Capitol.
Proposition 28 corrects these two problems, while maintaining the spirit of Proposition 140 of limiting the time lawmakers are in Sacramento. First, it reduces the total time lawmakers can be in office even further, from 14 to 12 years; second, it allows lawmakers to remain in the Assembly or the Senate for the entire time. Therefore, lawmakers remain for fewer years, but the possibility of them being more efficient in their jobs increases. They have more time and are not distracted by having to seek a new elected position and preparing for it.
We think the best way to defend the principle of establishing legislative term limits is supporting this initiative that improves upon the original idea. Vote yes on Prop 28!