Term limit measure cleared for signatures

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen cleared the way for proponents of a term limit reform initiative to seek the signatures required to place the measure on the statewide ballot next year.

The measure’s sponsors, an unusual coalition of labor and business interests, must collect at least 694,354 signatures of valid registered voters, or 8 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2006 gubernatorial election. The proponents have 150 days to circulate petitions for this measure or until Sept. 10.

The initiative changes the way term limits operate in California, allowing state legislators to serve a total of 12 years in either the Assembly or the Senate. The current law limits members to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate.

But that’s not the rub for some folks.

Rather than applying to future elected officials only, the measure permits sitting members who would otherwise face term limits to seek re-election, including Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. The list also includes several prominent East Bay politicians such as Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch and Assemblymembers Guy Houston of San Ramon and Loni Hancock of Berkeley.


The question of whether or not the measure will pass muster with California voters depends on which poll you believe.

A Public Policy Institute survey released March 28 says 64 percent oppose the concept.

But two subsequent polls found narrow support for the measure.

The San Jose State Survey and Policy Research Institute survey of April 3 showed the measure passing 51 to 36 percent.

A Field Poll survey made public on April 6 revealed similar results, 54 to 37 percent.

Pollsters said wording of the question produced the dramatically different outcomes. Unlike the San Jose and Field Polls, the PPIC poll did not specifically point out that the measure reduces the amount of time a legislator may serve from 14 years to 12 years.

On the other hand, none of the three polls told voters that the measure would allow legislators that would have otherwise termed out in 2008 to seek re-election.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen