California voters are being asked to refine the term limits for state legislators. The current system, imperfect to begin with, is broken and requires this step of reform, which is still short of the dramatic overhaul it needs.
Proposition 28 would tighten the rules around term limits and simplify the guidelines, with the added benefit of encouraging lawmakers in Sacramento to work and not continually look for their next jobs. At present, legislators may serve a maximum of six years in the state Assembly and eight years in the state Senate. The new proposition, on the June 5 ballot, would allow them to serve all 12 years in either house.
Since term limits were established, legislators have played an awkward game, serving six years in the Assembly before angling to jump over to the Senate. This undermines the disinterested process of crafting laws, as Assembly members are constantly thinking how any given law may help them jump over to the Senate and continue their careers.
Prop. 28 removes some of this ambiguity. State lawmakers must leave office after 12 years, but they don’t have to start posturing or raising money to jump to the other side of the aisle. This change will free them to concentrate on legislation, which is why we put them in office in the first place.
The San Francisco Examiner opposes term limits in general. Dealing with policy and government is difficult, and California needs experienced people to do this work. Term limits may sound like a Jeffersonian return to citizen government, but considering the budget, crime, the environment and the challenge of attracting new businesses, the reality is a seat in the Assembly or Senate is not a job for rookies. If we had our way, term limits would be abolished altogether, and if legislators failed to reflect their constituents’ wishes, their constituents could always kick them out of office.
But as long as we have such limits in place, it is good policy to make sure they make sense. Prop. 28 helps do this.