Terminating terms

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Today, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former Controller Steve Westly debate giving statewide officials a break on term limits. Previously, they discussed what effect Proposition 93 would have on legislators' time in office, the effect of the current term-limits law on California politics, why voters support term limits, and redistricting reform.

Diluting power among 120 legislatorsBy Steve Westly
Steve:

This is an apples-and-oranges comparison.

Executive offices, like that of the governor and insurance commissioner, concentrate authority in one single person. It is precisely this concentration that makes strict term limits for statewide elected officials necessary. The Legislature, in contrast, disburses decision-making to 120 people, making a strict three-term limit in the Assembly and two-term limit in the state Senate unnecessary.

Executive offices, such as the controller's office or the attorney general's office, have well over 1,000 employees, and the governor has authority over multiple state agencies that employ more than 200,000 people.

In contrast, the entire Legislature — the Assembly and state Senate combined — employ a little more than 2,000 people in total for all 120 legislators.

This is why it is more important to have stricter terms limits for statewide officeholders.

As a policymaking body, the Legislature depends on individuals to have deep knowledge of particular subject areas, such as water issues, transportation, education and healthcare.

The executive branch then implements the laws that are passed. There is a tremendous responsibility attached to both efforts. However, the executive branch tends to have more effect on our everyday lives because it puts the laws into effect.

To craft sound policy, the Legislature needs to have experience and expertise on complex issues. That is why it is so important to pass Proposition 93, the Term Limits and Legislative Reform Act.

Proposition 93 would allow legislators to serve all of their time in office — in this case 12 years — in one house of the Legislature. This doesn't mean that legislators could stay in office longer. It merely means they could stay in one chamber of the Legislature and gain proficiency in a specific policy area — without having to worry about running for office in a different district after six or eight years.

Right now, first-year legislators chair 12 of 34 committees in the Legislature. This is not good for the Legislature, and it's certainly not good for the people of California.

There are many talented, capable individuals serving in the Assembly and state Senate — yet they will be far more effective legislators if they are able to serve as committee members for a few years before becoming chairmen.

Proposition 93 is a common-sense reform that would boost the performance of the Legislature. Any governor — or insurance commissioner — should welcome the opportunity to make their government work better for the people of California.

Steve Westly served as controller of California from 2003 to 2007 and is currently the chief executive of the Westly Group, a venture capital firm that invests in clean technology companies.


Proposition 93 proves why legislators need term limitsBy Steve Poizner
Steve,

There is a simple reason why the issue of changing term limits just for state legislators — and not the governor or other statewide elected officials — keeps coming up. That's because state legislators keep bringing it up. Many legislators refuse to accept the will of the electorate and keep trying to find ways to "reform" term limits so they can remain in power.

That's just not the case with recent California governors or statewide elected officials.

The voters first demonstrated their support for term limits by passing Proposition 140 in 1990.

The voters reaffirmed their support for term limits in 2002 when they overwhelmingly defeated Proposition 45, the most recent effort by state legislators to weaken term limits and retain their positions of power.

Now the politicians have come up with the most cynical and dishonest scheme yet to weaken term limits so they can hang on to power. They are trying to trick the voters into thinking Proposition 93 would strengthen term limits and reduce terms when, in fact, it would loosen term limits and actually lengthen terms for most politicians by a significant amount.

Steve, with all due respect, your statement that Proposition 93 "doesn't mean that legislators could stay in office longer" is simply not the case. Credible third parties have evaluated that claim and found it inaccurate.

Proposition 93 would double the overall term in the Assembly from six years to 12 and increase the total length of Senate terms by 50% — from eight years to 12.

The politicians behind Proposition 93 claim it would reduce terms by lowering the maximum time of service possible from the current 14 years — if a legislator serves all three two-year Assembly terms and two four-year Senate terms — to 12 years. However, all of those 12 years could be served in a single chamber.

But according to the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies, only 10% of legislators serve the full 14 years allowed.

That's why, by increasing the terms for each legislative chamber, Proposition 93's real effect would be to dramatically increase terms for current and future legislators. An analysis by U.S. Term Limits found that Proposition 93 would dramatically increase terms for 80% of legislators.

Additionally, the analysis by the Center for Governmental Studies found that Proposition 93 would increase by four years the amount of time the average legislator spends in both chambers — back to the levels of tenure prior to term limits.

What's more, because of a special loophole for incumbent legislators, 42 termed-out legislators would be able to remain in office. This includes Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata — the primary sponsors and beneficiaries of Proposition 93.

In fact, Nunez could remain speaker until 2014 and Perata as Senate president until 2012 if Proposition 93 passes.

Because of this special loophole, some legislators would serve even 18 to 20 years in office — just as before term limits.

In fact, the report by the Center for Governmental Studies found that 95% of incumbent state senators would spend more than 12 years in the Legislature. In fact, an amazing 60% of senators would actually spend 18 years in the Senate if Proposition 93 passes. So much for a "reduction."

Proposition 93 — written by the politicians for the politicians and funded by the major special interests with business before the Legislature — is an example of why we need term limits.

The voters of California should reject Proposition 93 because it is an arrogant, self-serving and dishonest power grab by incumbent politicians and their special-interest allies.

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner was elected in 2006 and is chairman of the No on Proposition 93 campaign.

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