Term limits was supposed to send average folks to California’s Capitol, a return to the old days when lawmakers periodically traveled to Sacramento, passed a few laws and then returned to their farms and law firms where they earned an honest living.
But the popular restriction has utterly failed to produce these “citizen” lawmakers, according to a solid new study from the Center for Governmental Studies.
“Instead, the state has witnessed an enhanced form of political chairs, in which termed out state legislators simply move to other state or local political offices,” wrote CGS analyst Ava Alexandar. “Indeed, politicians are now moving faster and faster to the music, shifting their political offices to keep up with the pace of politics in California’s post term limits world and continue to serve in public office.”
Most legislators don’t return to their old jobs but instead run for another office, seek a political appointment or work as a lobbyist or other government-related position, Alexandar found.
California voters like term limits and the issue has long been considered inviolate. They smacked down a 2008 measure that would have modified term limits but allowed incumbents to hang around a little longer.
A new measure has qualified for the ballot that would permit legislators to serve 12 years in either the Assembly or the Senate, compared with current restrictions that limit legislators to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate. It contains no provisions for incumbents, which was the primary reason the 2008 bill failed.