LOS ANGELES (AP) — California voters tweaked term limits Tuesday to shave two years off the total time lawmakers can serve in the state Legislature, but will allow them to spend their tenure in one house.
Supporters said Proposition 28 will establish consistency and reduce the influence of lobbyists.
“California will have the best of both worlds when it comes to the state Legislature,” said Dan Schnur, a former Republican consultant who helped pass the 1990 term limits initiative and now directs the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “On the one hand, term limits will be even tougher, which will mean fresh voices in Sacramento, but it also will mean lawmakers will have the tools to do their job before they return home.”
The measure had about two-thirds support with more than 2 million votes cast.
Proposition 28 will limit lawmakers to 12 years, but allow them to spend that time in one house or a combination in both houses of the state Legislature. Currently, lawmakers can serve up to three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year terms in the Senate, for a total of 14 years.
The 1990 ballot measure that gave California some of the strictest term limits in the country was sold as a way to reduce the power of special interest groups. Good government organizations argued that it accomplished the opposite, assuring the statehouse would be filled with inexperienced politicians who are overly reliant on lobbyists and bureaucrats to help them write legislation.
Mindful that term limits remain popular with voters, proponents of Proposition 28 emphasized that the measure would reduce lawmakers’ total time in the statehouse.
Opponents, including the California Republican Party, said the initiative was dishonest because few lawmakers actually serve 14 years. For example, Assembly members often fail to move to the Senate because there are 80 seats in the lower house and just half that in the upper house. They warned the change would lead to entrenchment in the state Capitol.
Paul Jacob of the Liberty Initiative Fund, a conservative organization that donated $100,000 to defeat the measure, said it was only a matter of time before voters realize they’ve been tricked.
“You’re going to see people awfully upset when they find out that the limits are not tougher, they’re looser,” he said.
The campaign in favor of Proposition 28 raised more than twice as much money as the opposition campaign from a diverse coalition that included business and labor groups.
California voters narrowly rejected a nearly identical term measure in 2008 that would have applied to incumbent lawmakers. This one applies only to future legislators.