Term limits made things worse, many backers now say
August 1, 2010
Twenty years ago, California enacted the toughest term limits law in the nation, but today, many of those original supporters now regret their decision. [Mercury News]
“Of all the mistakes I’ve made in public life, the one I regret most is advocating for term limits for the Legislature,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, a leading conservative figure in California who was one of a small number of incumbent legislators who backed the term limits measure two decades ago. “It has harmed the institution badly.”
Recent investigative reporting by the San Jose Mercury News documented a rise in the proportion of bills sponsored by outside interests since term limits took effect. The newspaper articles exposed a system in which novice lawmakers, eager to build a record of accomplishment and collect campaign money for their next election, increasingly lean on lobbyists and special interests not only for ideas for bills but also for help in shepherding those bills through the legislative process.
Current term limit restrictions in California are six years (three terms) in the Assembly and eight years (two terms) in the Senate.
Former Democratic state Attorney General John Van de Kamp was a leading supporter of Proposition 131, which imposes term limits for the Assembly and state Senate. “We were very conscious of the sentiment that there had to be some kind of relief from the ‘old boys’ syndrome that affected Sacramento,” he said.
“You do want new blood in Sacramento periodically, that’s important. And no system is perfect. But compared with what we had before, this has not been an improvement.”
Last week a new measure gathered enough signatures to qualify for the 2012 election, calling for a change in term limits–if approved, representatives in either house could serve a maximum of 12 years.