Proposition 28, on the June 5 ballot, would change California’s term limits law, probably for the better. It would cut the number of years a legislator could serve from 14 to 12, but would make it possible for a legislator to serve all of those years in the Assembly or the Senate.
It is supported by unions, businesses and good-government groups, and thus is keeping good company.
It may improve things in the legislature — it couldn’t make them worse.
Term limits laws — aka the Voters Are Stupid Laws — are based on the premise that voters are just too dumb to vote against incumbents, so we will assume all incumbents are bums and throw them out with regularity.
What really should be on the ballot is a measure to do away with term limits, or set the limits for longer periods.
Backers of Prop. 28 say the present term-limit law is confusing by limiting the amount of time a person can spend in either the Assembly or the Senate. Assembly members can only have three terms, or six years, and Senate members can only have two terms, or eight years. Theoretically, a politician could spend six years in the Assembly, then eight years in the Senate before being termed out, but that hardly ever happens.
Instead, when people are elected either to the Assembly or Senate for the first time, the first thing they do is start listening to lobbyists, because they, themselves, haven’t a fig’s notion of what is going on in their chamber. Or, if they aren’t cozied up to lobbyists, they pay lots of attention to the state’s civil servants, who have their own agendas, usually the preservation of their bureaus.
The next thing they do is start raising money for the next election, and the third thing is they start looking for political jobs to hold after they are termed out.
Prop. 28 may not be the legislation we need, but it may wind up making more sense than what we have.