Proposition 28 is admittedly confusing upon first read. Called the “California Change in Term Limits Initiative,” the constitutional amendment would both extend and limit term limits.
Let’s break it down.
Currently, state Assembly members can serve a maximum of three two-year terms and state senators are allowed no more than two four-year terms. If a legislator serves the max in both houses, that totals 14 years in the California legislature. If passed, Prop 28 would decrease the total number of combined years to 12 — but extend term limits individually to allow 12 years service in either house or any combination of the two.
No, Prop 28 does not get rid of term limits altogether. It’s a compromise symptomatic of California politics — it’s good, but it doesn’t do enough. Still, its positive impact could be greater than we imagine. Since most state legislators don’t serve in both houses, Prop 28 would in effect extend those limits — double in the state Assembly and by 50 percent in the state Senate. The potential for extra time in the legislature can only be a positive.
The extension of term limits allows legislators to focus on their job for the long haul and worry less about reelection, especially if they are running as an incumbent for a fifth or sixth term. Those interested in only one of the houses would be able to continue to fight battles there for a dozen years. Politicians will have more familiarity with the job and more possibilities to create substantial and lasting change. Like with any job, legislators need time to establish trusted and important connections.
Having fresh blood and new ideas is still vital to keep this state progressing. But under the structure of Prop 28 — and the inevitability that legislators would be more inclined to stay in their house instead of switching after a half dozen years or so — that would not be a problem.
How many people know the name of their respective state Assembly member and state senator, much less know them personally? With the likelihood of legislators staying in their position longer, they would have more time to get to know their constituents — hear their concerns, discuss their ideas, debate the issues.
If Prop 28 passes, the burden is not just on Sacramento. It becomes even more crucial for voters to hold their representatives accountable, and more vital for the media to fulfill its role as the government watchdog.
The individual increase in term limits is more important than the overall decrease. Prop 28 is a vote for more progress in California.
Vote “yes” on Prop 28.
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