With the California Presidential Primary Election approaching, voters will decide on two ballot measures. One is Proposition 28, or, “Limits on legislator’s terms in office. Initiative constitutional amendment.”
If passed, the proposition would shorten the amount of time a person can serve in California legislature from 14 years to 12 years. Currently, a person can serve three two-year terms in the State Assembly and two four-year terms in the State Senate, a combined total of 14 years.
If Proposition 28 is passed, an individual’s maximum term would be shortened by two years, but they would not have to divide their time between the two legislative bodies. They could serve up to six two-year terms in the Assembly or three four-year terms in the Senate. Critics of the proposition say the bill only has the illusion of shortening time served by politicians, while it actually would make it easier for politicians to serve for longer in the same seat.
“The measure weakens term limits for state legislators and lengthens the amount of time that they can stay in one office,” Jon Fleischman wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle. “If this measure passes, it means that most state legislators will serve a full decade in office without having to deal with a competitive election, because incumbency is such a powerful force in elections.”
However, the proposition also removes an exception in the legislature by which politicians can serve for even longer than their 14-year limit.
“An exception is when an individual serves additional time by finishing out less than one-half of the term of another person who left the Legislature (for example, resignation,)” the Legislative Analyst office states. According to those arguing in favor of the proposition in the Official Voter Information Guide, this can result in politicians serving up to 17 years.
“Prop. 28 does what it says,” arguers for the proposition state in the Official Voter Information Guide. “It’s a strict 12-year limit that closes the 17-year loophole and improves accountability.”
“An independent study conducted by U.S. Term Limits, the nation’s leading pro-term limits organization, showed that 80 percent of legislators will have their time in office lengthened … if politicians are allowed to stay in the same office for 12 years,” arguers against the proposition wrote in the rebuttal.