On politics in the Golden State

Category: term limits

Legislature now a stepping stone for would-be L.A. council members


Once upon a time, a time before legislative term limits, the Los Angeles City Council used to be a stepping stone to the Legislature. But Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield’s entry into the San Fernando Valley’s 3rd District council race is just the latest indication that it now works the other way around.

As David Zahniser reports, Blumenfield is the fourth sitting Assemblyman to join the 2013 race for City Council. Democrats Mike Davis, Gil Cedillo and Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) are also seeking council seats. The current council president, Herb Wesson, is a former Assembly speaker. Council members Richard Alarcon, Tony Cardenas, Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian all once served in Sacramento.

It’s not difficult to see why this trend has reversed over the last two decades. With the passage of Proposition 140 in 1990, Assembly service was capped at six years. That measure also stripped state pensions for Sacramento lawmakers.

It also established an independent commission that controls lawmakers’ pay. The average Assembly member now makes about $95,000 a year. Council members make close to twice that amount, plus they get pensions, city cars and can serve for 12 years.

In June, voters changed legislative term limits, passing a measure that will allow lawmakers to serve 12 years in either the Assembly or the Senate instead of the six years in the Assembly and the eight years in the Senate allowed under the 1990 law.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is also a former Assembly speaker, but signs are he may want to head back to the state Capitol. In an interview with Yahoo! News, the mayor said that after he leaves office next year, he’d like to run for governor.

[For the Record, 1:37 p.m. Aug. 3: An earlier version of this post said Bob Blumenfield is running in Los Angeles' 4th Council District. He is running in Council District 3.]


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-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) is one of four current legislators running for Los Angeles City Council. Credit: Associated Press

AP says Proposition 28, on term limits, passing

Click for live results from the California primaryVoters appear to have passed Proposition 28, a proposal to change California’s 22-year-old law limiting the time state legislators may serve, according to the Associated Press. The organization based its projection on about 15% of precincts reporting.

In 1990, Californians limited lawmakers to three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year stints in the Senate, for a total of 14 years in the Legislature.

Proposition 28 allows lawmakers 12 years in the Legislature, but all of those may be served in one house.

LIVE RESULTS: California primary

It will not apply to those currently in office.

Supporters of the measure said lawmakers spend too much time fundraising for the leap from one legislative house to the other and need more time in one office to fully master complex issues and the lawmaking process.

Opponents said the initiative was pitched in a misleading way, as a toughening of term limits even though it allows legislators to serve longer in one seat.


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Photo: The Capitol Building in Sacramento. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Term limits initiative has slim lead, new poll finds

GetprevCAQZUTAXAn initiative on the June ballot to alter California's term limits law has support from a narrow majority of registered voters, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

Proposition 28, which would shave two years off the 14 years legislators are allowed to serve in Sacramento but permit them to spend all of the 12 years in one legislative house, is favored by 51% of voters. The survey found that 32% oppose it and the remainder are undecided.

Currently, lawmakers are limited to six years in the Assembly and eight in the state Senate under a law passed by voters in 1990.

An earlier, similar measure to change the law was backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrats in the Legislature but was rejected by voters in 2004.

This time, Republicans strongly favor the measure, by a 58% to 30% margin. Democrats are more tepid, with 48% backing it and 34% opposing it.

The poll of 1,500 California voters was conducted for the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times from March 14 through 19. It was fielded by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in conjunction with the Republican firm American Viewpoint. The margin of error is 2.9 percentage points.

Look for more findings in coming days at www.latimes.com.


Clash over term limits in hearing

'Father of term limits' revisits the issue

Term limits measure fails to reach November ballot

-- Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento

Photo: The California State Capitol glows at dusk. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times


California activists clash over term limits measure on June ballot

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


Pete Schabarum, 'father of term limits,' revisits the issue

Pete Schabarum, the "father of term limits" in California

The “father of term limits” says he isn’t pleased with the way things turned out.

With another proposal to tinker with  Legislature service allowances on the June ballot, The Times caught up recently with former longtime Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum. The blunt-spoken Republican won fans and foes when he upended state government with his 1990 ballot measure imposing limits on how long state politicians can stay in office. Several local governments and some other states soon followed suit.

Reached at his home in the desert community of Indian Wells, Schabarum said he had hoped his measure would encourage a new breed of “citizen legislator” who would serve the state for a short period of time and then return to private life, giving others opportunities to bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to government.

Instead, many elected officials who want careers in politics engage in a near-constant rotation among posts.

“The guys and gals who are seeking office are always looking beyond where they land for the next jump,” Schabarum said. “They spend most of their time in office looking for their next job.”

What would he do differently if he’d know then what he knows now?

“I probably  would have provided longer timelines but not made it so they could bounce around from one house [of the Legislature] to another.”

Will he vote for a measure on the June 5 ballot that would shorten a legislator’s allowance from 14 years to 12?

“We’ll see,” replied Schabarum,  83.

He blames the “quality of the people in the Legislature” for the state’s political gridlock  and other problems, not term limits, as some have suggested.

Schabarum, who served in the Assembly before joining the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, left office  in 1991 after a protracted court fight over the redrawing of political districts. His seat  was placed in a new, strongly Latino district, and  he was succeeded by Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Widowed nearly five years ago after 48 years of marriage and rendered legally blind by a degenerative eye disease, the man who once anchored a three-two conservative Republican majority on the powerful Board of Supervisors spends his time traveling with friends and keeping up with politics.

Schabarum  said he approved of voters’ stripping from legislators the once-a-decade job of adjusting political districts and putting it in the hands of an independent citizens commission, although he thinks the commission “didn’t do the quality job it was intended to do.”

Schabarum likes another voter-approved change, the open or “top two” primary system, in which  all voters in a district get the same ballot and the first-and second-place primary finishers  advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

“I think it’s worth a try,” Schabarum said. “The theory is it’s going to get rid of radicals on the left and the right and bring more moderate persons to the fore.  We’ll see.”


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-- Jean Merl

Photo: Pete Schabarum at a 1989 Board of Supervisors meeting. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Part-time California Legislature was 'corrupt,' ex-leader says


Former Assembly leader Dario Frommer says part-time Legislature is not the answer


Former Assembly Majority Leader Dario Frommer does not share the nostalgia of those who want the California Legislature to return to being a part-time body.

So the Democrat from La Cañada Flintridge has agreed to co-chair a campaign against an initiative proposed by Republican Assemblywoman Shannon Grove of Bakersfield to end the Legislature’s full-time status.

"We had a part-time Legislature in California. It was widely viewed as corrupt and ineffective," Frommer said of the days before California voters created a full-time body in 1966.

Grove’s initiative would have the Legislature meet 90 days a year and cut members’ pay from more than $7,900 a month to $1,500. That, Grove said, would "get them away from the seductive atmosphere of the Capitol dome, get them back home with family, neighbors and work, and give them a better chance, as a citizen legislator, to serve their constituents best interests."

The proponents, who include Ted Costa of People's Advocate, have 150 days to collect 807,615 signatures of registered voters to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Frommer, who served in the Assembly from 2000 to 2006, will be ready to campaign against it if it qualifies. The state's problems will not be solved by having the government of one of the world's largest economies "run by a part-time commission," Frommer said. "In fact, you are going to make it worse and give special interests even more sway than they hold today.''

The answer, he said is a different change. "I served as a legislative staffer before term limits and as a legislator under them. I can tell you first hand that term limits are largely responsible for the problems we have in Sacramento today,'' he said.


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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Dario Frommer, then the Democratic leader of the California Assembly, speaks to reporters questions in 2005.  Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times


11 candidates qualify for L.A. Council race to replace Hahn

Eleven candidates qualified Thursday for the race to replace now-Congresswoman Janice Hahn on the Los Angeles City Council.

They include Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardena), who is backed by the Democratic Party and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and former Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr., who is only eligible to run for another term due to a change in term limits. Meanwhile, the fire and police unions are each backing separate candidates.

-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall

First Take: Pension deal struck. Term limits change falters. Biden heads West

Leaders of four public employee unions agreed to pension and pay cuts in a deal with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A proposal to tweak the state's term limits law missed qualifying for the November ballot, and other proposed ballot measures may also be in jeopardy. Story here.

Joe Biden will head to California next month to raise money for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

After trailing on election day, Assemblyman Michael Villines (R-Clovis) has taken the lead in the GOP race for insurance commissioner.

Get the latest from California politics. Follow PolitiCal on Twitter: twitter.com/latpoliticsca

-- Anthony York

Term limits proposal fails to reach November ballot

A measure to change the state's term limits law failed to qualify for the November ballot, but backers say it is likely to be before voters in 2012.

The measure would allow lawmakers to serve 12 years in either legislative house and would do away with the current limits of three two-year Assembly terms and two four-year Senate terms. The proposal is backed by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. It is opposed by U.S. Term Limits.

Proponents submitted more than 970,000 signatures to county election officials. Counties then conducted a random sampling of those signatures to check validity rates in every county. In order to skip a full count of signatures, a measure must be on track to return 763,790 valid signatures. The term-limits proposal fell short of that threshold and must now go through the full counting process.

That is expected to carry beyond the June 24 deadline for measures to qualify for the November ballot. Matt Klink, a spokesman for the initiative, said supporters were disappointed that the measure would not be before voters in November but are confident that they will qualify for the 2012 ballot after a full count is complete.

-- Anthony York

First Take: Schwarzenegger's Asia funding. California races on GOP's radar. Jerry Brown's sweaty encounter

Exploiting a loophole in the state's campaign finance law, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's upcoming trip to Asia is being funded by a $550,000 donation from a Chinese company.

A number of races in California are on the GOP's national radar for November.

Radio reporter Doug Sovern blogs on the aftermath of his blog post that quoted Jerry Brown comparing Meg Whitman's campaign to the Nazi propaganda machine.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on a case that could lead to the release of 46,000 California inmates.

Today is the deadline for counties to report results of a signature count that could determine whether a change in the state's term limits law is on the November ballot. The early numbers don't look good.

Get the latest from California politics. Follow PolitiCal on Twitter.


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