Op-Ed: Yes on Prop 28 – Help Make the Legislature More Accountable

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Our political system in California is broken. As soon as lawmakers have a grasp on the issues in their current office, it’s time for them to move on.

Instead of pursuing long-term solutions, current lawmakers are chasing headlines and campaign contributions to gear up for their run for their next office. This political merry-go-round has come at a cost – less legislative experience and expertise needed to tackle our state’s complex problems.

The Public Policy Institute of California found this focus on politics has resulted in a legislative body deprived of the expertise “to weed out bad bills and to ensure that agencies are acting efficiently and in accordance with legislative intent.” And the Center for Governmental Studies showed how the impact of our current term limits law “has produced a legislature that is more dependent on the expertise of lobbyists.”

This constant turnover has created a brain drain in the Capitol at a time when we need experienced leadership.

That’s not what backers of our current term limits law intended. But that’s what we have to deal with as we face some of the most challenging times in California’s history.

We need a simple reform to term limits that will make our legislators more accountable and focused on their jobs. Proposition 28 does just that.

Under the current term limits law, legislators’ time in office is limited by terms three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year terms in the Senate. In addition, there’s a loophole for lawmakers who fill special election vacancies for a partial term that allows them to serve up to nearly 17 years.

Prop 28 reduces the time politicians can serve from 14 years to a strict 12-year limit. This time in office can be served entirely in the state Assembly, the state Senate, or a combination of the two. No past or current member of the state Assembly or Senate is affected, and no lawmaker can use Prop 28 to extend his or her time in office.

This is a responsible way to address the unintended consequences of the current term limits law.

In Paradise Lost, veteran newspaper columnist Peter Schrag accurately predicted the aftermath of the current term limits law, writing that there will be “more clout for lobbyists, who are never termed-out and who know the issues.” The effect “is increased power for interest group lobbyists and agency bureaucrats . . . who will increasingly become the major source of legislative information.”

After more than 20 years, it’s time to address the broken status quo.

Prop 28 is a simple reform that will help increase accountability by making the Legislature more responsive to voters and less beholden to special interest lobbyists.

Prop 28 does exactly what it says it will do. There are no tricks and no gimmicks and no sitting lawmaker would have their terms extended.

On June 5, vote YES on Prop 28.

Trudy Schafer is Senior Director for Program for the League of Women Voters of California, a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government.