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On term limits

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tem, you blew it. You had term-limits reform in the bag, and you let it get away. Instead of leaving your successors a smarter system than you had, and instead of leaving Californians a legacy of better, more experienced lawmakers, you insisted on getting a piece of the action. You insisted on Proposition 93, which would have given termed-out incumbents like you a transition bonus, leaving you, Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), as speaker of the Assembly for up to another six years and you, Don Perata (D-Oakland), as leader of the state Senate for perhaps another four. You refused to do something good for California unless you got something out of it for yourselves.

You also broke faith with voters by not giving them redistricting reform. Mr. Speaker, you said you would do your best to pair term-limits reform with a ballot measure to strip you and your colleagues of the power to draw your own district lines, but you didn’t follow through. Did you think voters would forget? Did you think they wouldn’t notice?

Voters don’t like to be played for fools. They saw what you were doing and they got mad, and it’s hard to blame them. More than 53% of voters rejected Proposition 93 on Tuesday. But look how close it was. If you hadn’t been so blatantly self-serving and hadn’t given voters such good reasons to be angry with you, term-limits reform would have passed. The next generation of California lawmakers would have had more clout to say “no” to lobbyists and a long enough view to hammer out fixes for our chronic budget, healthcare, water resources, education and other problems.

Instead, California is left with the same broken system it has had for 18 years. As for you, you’re termed out. Bye, now. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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Now voters, just between us: You blew it too. Sure, you gave Nunez and Perata what they deserved, but to what end? In order to punish them, you punished yourselves by booting a rare chance to get real reform. Under Proposition 93, they would have been termed out eventually and left behind an improved term-limits system for their successors. If there had been an alternative that didn’t reward the speaker and Senate leader, we would have opted for it and against Proposition 93. But there wasn’t, nor is there any prospect of one any time soon. We are condemned to living, for the foreseeable future, under the same system that produced, well, Nunez and Perata.


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