Bend the Arc is continuing Progressive Jewish Alliance’s tradition of leadership providing a progressive Jewish political analysis of California’s ballot propositions. On the June Ballot we are recommending a YES VOTE ON PROPSOITION 28 which would reform the term limit regime that has impaired the functioning of California’s legislature.
SUPPORT Proposition 28 (Limits on Legislators’ Terms in Office; Initiative Constitutional Amendment): The Progressive Jewish Alliance (“PJA”) – one of the predecessor organizations that merged to create Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice – historically opposed term limits on the grounds that they encourage constant campaigning (rather than legislating) and perpetual fundraising, reduce the effectiveness of legislators, adversely affect institutional memory and inappropriately empower lobbyists and other special interests. A study prepared for the nonpartisan, nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California in 2004 confirmed these concerns, finding that term limits have eroded legislative capacities in many unhelpful ways. Among these problems, the PPIC study concluded that “legislative oversight of the executive branch has declined significantly” and that “frequent changes in the membership and leadership of legislative committees, especially in the Assembly, diminish their expertise in many important policy areas.”
Proposition 28 is similar in many ways to Proposition 93 that PJA endorsed on the February 2008 statewide ballot. In that election, Prop. 93 was defeated by a relatively slim 54%-46% margin. As with Proposition 93, Proposition 28 calls for a reduction in the total amount of time that a person may serve in the California Legislature from 14 to 12 years; furthermore, it allows a legislator to serve those dozen years in either the State Assembly or State Senate, or a combination of both. By contrast, the present term limits regime restricts an individual’s service to a total of 6 years in the Assembly (three 2-year terms) or a total of eight years in the Senate (two 4-year terms). Thus, both recent iterations (the former Prop. 93 and current Prop. 28) underscore the value of extended terms of service, by allowing an individual to double the possible amount of time that could be served in the Assembly and increasing by 50% the possible amount of time that could be served in the Senate. It has the added benefit of discouraging the movement of legislators from the Assembly to the Senate (or vice versa) simply to maximize one’s total number of years of legislative service.
Proposition 28 also seeks to address the most serious complaint lodged against 2008’s Proposition 93, which included grandfathering provisions that would have allowed 42 incumbent legislators to remain in their existing positions for more than the 14-year term limit currently in place. Proposition 28 does not contain grandfathering provisions; instead, legislators who are first elected on or before June 5, 2012, would continue to be restricted by the existing term limits rules. For the same reasons that PJA supported Proposition 93 in 2008, Bend the Arc strongly supports passage of Proposition 28 on this June’s primary election ballot, which helps enable legislators to perform their jobs more effectively and with a longer-term vision.