California voters deliver decisive victory for term-limit changes
In the last decade, voters have twice rejected changes to California's strict term limits for state lawmakers.
A straightforward proposal to extend term limits was voted down in 2002. Then in 2008, an effort to change how long lawmakers could serve in either the Assembly or the Senate was also rejected.
But on Tuesday, the campaign to change term limits won a decisive victory, with 61.4% of voters approving the ballot measure. Only 38.6% voted against it.
Known as Proposition 28, the campaign largely flew under the radar, taking a back seat to the more controversial Proposition 29, which sought to raise the tax on cigarette sales by $1 a pack.
Proposition 28 was largely similar to the change voters rejected in 2008. Instead of a total of 14 years, new lawmakers will be limited to 12 years. But they'll be able to serve the full 12 years in either house, rather than be limited to three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year stints in the Senate. Current lawmakers won't be affected.
Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, said voters were likely focused on reducing the overall time lawmakers can spend in the Legislature, rather than which house they serve in.
"If people had the option, they would probably limit members to a single term," he said.
Supporters say Proposition 28 will allow lawmakers to build more experience by serving in one house for a longer period of time.
“The status quo is broken,” said Trudy Schafer, a spokeswoman for the League of Women Voters of California. “We have people who come to the Capitol and immediately start looking at where they go next.”
Opponents of the new initiative point to its major financial backers: the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, in addition to development firms owned by Philip Anschutz and Ed Roski Jr., both of whom benefited from special laws the Legislature passed last year to prevent protracted legal challenges to proposed NFL football stadiums.
Philip Blumel, president of U.S. Term Limits, a Washington-based group fighting to create term limits in other states, said the results from Tuesday's primary were disappointing. But he said the campaign shows that "Californians overwhelmingly want their politicians' stay in office to be short and temporary.”
-- Chris Megerian and Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: The State Capitol glows at dusk in a view from Capitol Mall. Credit: Los Angeles Times