Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, Jul. 31, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

We humans tend to crave predictability and fear uncertainty, if for no other reason than the former implies security and the latter insecurity, which largely explains why those in and around California politics despise legislative term limits.

Legislators can’t look forward to the long, comfortable careers of their predecessors (and no longer have pensions); legislative staffers must change jobs frequently; and lobbyists must constantly deal with new crops of lawmakers.

Those on the periphery – academics, journalistic pundits and the like – are equally sour on term limits because they, too, must cope with an ever-changing landscape.

Naturally, therefore, they tend to ascribe all the ills of a dysfunctional legislative process to term limits, saying that they rob the Capitol of expertise, continuity and camaraderie.

A new report by the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies typifies the genre, saying that the term limit ballot measure adopted by voters in 1990 “has failed to achieve its original purposes, and has triggered additional problems as well.”

The report found that term limits has brought more men and women with local government experience to the Capitol, that most of them pursue their political careers elsewhere after being “termed-out,” and that legislators are more dependent on lobbyists and staff than they used to be.

The report presents what one might term the intellectual case against term limits and clearly touts a pending ballot measure that would exchange the current limits, six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate, for a single 12-year limit on all legislative service.

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