Term Limits for Legislators

Prof. Charles Kesler ("Reaping What Voters Sowed," Commentary, Sept. 15) would like us to believe that voters brought upon themselves the current antics of the state Legislature. He thinks the basic problem is "the perverse consequences" of Proposition 140 and its provisions for limiting the legislators' terms.

Was Proposition 140 responsible for the antics of the Legislature on the last occasion there was a major fight over the speakership? Kesler would do well to familiarize himself with the contest between Leo McCarthy and Howard Berman, for it makes the shenanigans of Doris Allen and Paul Horcher look like kindergartners at play. Berman and McCarthy were not legislators misbehaving because of term limits. They were fully tenured politicians fighting for the right to run a giant spoils system--the California Assembly.

Allen and Horcher have in common that they are both patsies of Willie Brown, the man who has been running that system since the Berman-McCarthy fight. What both have in common with Brown, however, is that they are professional politicians, willing to do almost anything to hang onto the pay, perquisites and powers of the only career they know. The professionalized legislature has always worked "harder at politics than governance."

With a better grasp of history, Kesler might realize that much nasty politics always attends the ending of one regime and the beginning of another. We are seeing in Sacramento the last gasp of the professionalized Legislature that began with Jesse Unruh three decades ago and that will end finally when Proposition 140 has removed the last of those who went to Sacramento looking for a lifelong career.

The antics of Horcher, Allen and Brown are, in fact, the death struggles of a doomed class--state legislators with life tenure. They are leaving the stage with about as much grace as most of us expected.


Los Angeles

Schabarum was the author of Prop. 140 .

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