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California activists clash over term limits measure on June ballot

March 20, 2012 |  5:43 pm

Tourists and spectators on the grounds of the Capitol in Sacramento walk through the rain.

A ballot measure to change term limits for California legislators was defended Tuesday by supporters as necessary to blunt the influence of lobbyists, but was attacked by an opponent as a "sham" meant to trick voters and help politicians.

The lively debate was held at the Capitol during a hearing of the Senate and Assembly election committees on Proposition 28, a constitutional amendment on the June 5 ballot.  The current law, enacted by voters in 1990, limits legislators to serving six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate for a total of 14 years.

The new measure, which does not apply to current lawmakers, would limit legislators to 12 years overall but let lawmakers serve it all in one legislative house. It is backed by the California League of Women Voters and California Common Cause.

By limiting the ability of legislators to gain experience in office, the current law has "opened the door for greater influence by lobbyists and special interests," Phillip Ung, an advocate for Common Cause, told the committees.

The current rules insure against the state being run by a "political elite,'' countered Jon Fleischman, who runs a political news website and represents Californians for Term Limits, which is opposing Proposition 28. He said the title of the ballot measure "limits on legislators’ terms in office'' -- is misleading. Fleischman predicted lawmakers will stay in the Legislature longer if they can keep the incumbent's advantage in one office.

"This is a sham," Fleischman told the committees. "This has been written to fool the voters into thinking this will reduce the amount of time legislators spend in Sacramento."

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 --Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Tourists and spectators on the grounds of the Capitol in Sacramento walk through the rain. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

 

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