Prop. 93: Dueling lawyers?

Campaign lawyers for Proposition 93, the term limits measure on the Feb. 5 ballot, are disputing the opinions of two attorneys quoted in a Sacramento Bee story on Tuesday who said the new law could open the door for termed-out legislators.

A press release from the “Yes On Prop. 93” campaign quotes its attorneys, Robin Johansen and James Harrison, who said:

“This measure is clear — only current and newly elected Members will be subject to its provisions. It expressly contains a narrow transition provision that allows existing Members to serve a full 12-years in the house they’re currently in so long as those years are served consecutively. By creating this single exception — for current members only — it precludes any other exceptions. This would include former members currently covered and termed out by Proposition 140.”

I wrote about this controversy in my column on Sunday, where former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla said he might run for his old seat if the voters pass Prop. 93 in February. He also said he would consider legally challenging the proponents’ position that the law applies only to sitting and future legislators and excludes former lawmakers.

The proposition would allow legislators to serve a total of 12 years in either the Assembly or the Senate. The current law restricts legislators to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate.

It’s more controversial provision would allow incumbents who would have termed out in 2008 to seek re-election and serve up to 12 years in the house in which he or she currently holds office. That includes Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch.

As someone pointed out in my earlier blog item, put four lawyers in a room and what will you get? Four opinions.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen