Term Limits Were a Big Bust

John Seiler:

Back in 1990, I wrote many editorials for the Orange County Register backing Proposition 140, which limited the terms of state legislators. Senators could serve only two four-year terms; assemblymen only three two-year terms. It was supposed to bring “citizen legislators” to the Capitol.

I remember rhapsodizing on how America’s Founding Fathers would “take a few weeks off every year from their plows or shops to conduct the humble business of a limited government,” or words to that effect, instead of hanging around full time living off the taxpayers’ money.

Poster boys for term limits were such “old bulls” as then-Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and state Sen. Bill Lockyer, who spent 25 years in the Legislature.


A new study  by the Center for Governmental Studies found that the main effect of term limits was just to shift politicians around in a game of political musical chairs. Brown became mayor of San Francisco. Lockyer became first state attorney general, then state treasurer, a post he just was re-elected to. It’s long been known that Lockyer also wanted to be governor; although I don’t think he has the temperament for a gubernatorial campaign. And I’ve heard that he’s eyeing running for secretary of state in 2014.

Worse is that many new legislators have turned out to be local government-union hacks, such as current Assembly Speaker John Perez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Their philosophy is: for the government union workers, everything; for the taxpayers, nothing but higher taxes.

It makes me long for the days when the “old bulls” were in charge. They at least understood that you had to nurture business and citizen taxpayers like prize sheep before shearing them. Willie Brown (pictured above) even has been talking about the necessity of pension reform.

But the real problem is that government is just too big. So is the state itself, made up of 37 million contending special interests.

Especially with the unending recession upon us, the pot of spoils from taxpayers is not getting larger. And the small-minded legislators now running the show — briefly, before moving on to other elected positions — just don’t care about nurturing businesses and jobs. They want higher taxes and more regulatory idiocies — and they want them NOW!!!

At the expense of advancing another reform that would fail, what we need, at a minimum, is to return to a part-time legislature. Texas, another big state with a lot of problems, has one and flourishes. It meets once for six months every two years.

We also need constitutional limits on spending and bills creation. How about just one bill, on one subject, sponsored by each of 120 legislators for each session? And, for every bill passed, a previous bill must be repealed?

With nearly 1,000 bills passed every year in the Legislature, most signed into law by the governor, the state is choking with absurd laws and regulations.

It’s time to reform the reform.

July 21, 2011



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