Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 2, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

CALIFORNIA STUFF....Here in California we're not just voting for presidential candidates on Tuesday. We're also voting on a couple of initiatives. So what do I think of them?

From my point of view, there's an easy one and a hard one. The easy one is Prop 93, which changes our term limits law. Currently, you're limited to 14 years: three terms (6 years) in the assembly and two terms (8 years) in the senate. The problem with this is that a limit of three terms in the assembly, for example, means that the Speaker of the Assembly never has more than four years of experience before taking over the top spot. This is dumb. The point of a term limits law should be to prevent people from making careers out of a single political office, not doing away with experience altogether.

The new law is simpler: it limits service to 12 years total, in either house. This is how I would have written the law in the first place, and it's a good compromise between limiting legislative service while still allowing politicians to gain enough experience to know how to run things. This is one of those rare initiatives I'm in favor of.

The harder one is Props 94-97, a series of identical referendums that allows an expansion of slot machine gaming by four California Indian tribes. Basically, though, I don't have a problem with it. The governor negotiated the deal, the legislature approved it, it would bring in a fair amount of new revenue to the state, and the opposition comes primarily from (a) other gaming interests who don't want increased competition (Nevada casinos, other tribes, and horse racing interests) and (b) the teachers union, which is unhappy that the additional revenues aren't specifically earmarked for education. Since I don't care about increased competition, and I'm actively opposed to earmarking revenue via initiative, their opposition doesn't carry much water with me. There's also some opposition from unions, who are unhappy that the tribes refused to accept their collective bargaining terms in the new compacts.

But I'm fundamentally in favor of letting the legislature and the governor run the state (which is one of the reasons I default to No on most initiatives), and none of the opposing arguments seems quite strong enough to override the deal as approved by the legislature. Unless I hear something more persuasive in the next few days, I'm inclined to go ahead and vote Yes.

There are also a couple of bond measures on the ballot. On those, I have no particular opinion.

UPDATE: Props 91 and 92 aren't bond measures. Sorry about that. I wasn't paying attention. From SteveK in comments:

Prop 91, the transportation initative has been made obsolete by statute. No one, not even the people that qualified it for the ballot, is supporting it.

Prop 92, the community college constitutional ammendment, makes some sense, and remedies historical funding gaps for the CCs, but is just too damn expensive. And it's one of those crappy initiatives that locks funding percentages in the constitution.

Kevin Drum 6:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (57)

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There aren't any bond measures on the state ballot.

91 is about loopholes in an earlier measure on transportation revenues; 92 is about community college governance, funding, and student fees; and 94-97 are about gambling casino compacts with four large California tribes.

Posted by: Anne Layzer on February 2, 2008 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

I've been looking for some more discussion on Prop 93. I read somewhere that this would also grandfather in current office holders for longer than they should be allowed. Anybody?

Posted by: arteclectic on February 2, 2008 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Prop 93 is the Fabian Nunez and Don Perata protection acts, written in large part to save their jobs. They are currently hitting the term limits in their respective houses (where they are in leadership positions). This prop would restart their limits, giving them 12 more years, doing an end around term limits. The general limits may be an improvement over what we have now, but it's hard to support something quite so cynical.

Posted by: adam on February 2, 2008 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Prop 91, the transportation initative has been made obsolete by statute. No one, not even the people that qualified it for the ballot, is supporting it.

Prop 92, the community college constitutional ammendment, makes some sense, and remedies historical funding gaps for the CCs, but is just too damn expensive. And it's one of those crappy initiatives that locks funding percentages in the constitution.

I'd agree with you on Prop 93, if it weren't for some of the backdoor deals they snuck in for individual politicians that just don't pass the smell test.

The Indian gaming compacts are a no-brainer for me. As far as I'm concerned, it's just a question of how much, if anything, you want to allow the state to extort from the tribes. As I explained in conversation earlier this week, after stealing their country, waging a genocidal war against them, herding them on to shit-hole reservations and destroying their culture, I don't think that native americans owe the state one goddam thing. If they want to build the biggest casino in the US (oh, wait, they already have), and keep every last nickle, it's fine by me.

Posted by: SteveK on February 2, 2008 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Term limits are not necessary. There's a natural remedy that serves as a term limit. It's called v-o-t-i-n-g.

Posted by: don'tknow on February 2, 2008 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

With regard to the gambling compacts, I figure gambling is impossible to stop, and one gang of undeserving people or another will make a shit load of money from casinos, so it might as well be a bunch of people we have shat on over the years instead of a bunch of already rich assholes.

I'm against any term limits for several reasons, and while Prop 93 won't eliminate them, it will make them marginally less terrible.

Posted by: anandine on February 2, 2008 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, but that means that only rich people - not experienced people - ever end up in the Senate.

So I'm against Prop 93. It's stupid. It means that the guys we want to get rid of stick around in their stupid positions until they can gt a job from their cronies, and they're never forced to improve or get out.

Our current limits groom people to go into Federal service, where they then have experience. I think that's great.

Maybe what you really want is longer terms for representatives or junior representatives.


Posted by: Crissa on February 2, 2008 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

arteclectic: Apparently, yes.

Anyhow, I usually vote for bonds - but in this case I'm voting against them.

The only thing I'm voting for is 94, 95, 96, 97.

Posted by: Crissa on February 2, 2008 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on February 2, 2008 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

In general I don't like term limits at all, though I'd prefer that it be easier to vote incumbents out.

But the setup we have now is idiotic. The proposed one is somewhat less idiotic. I don't care if it grandfathers some existing people in (since I don't want them term limited in the first place), the proposed measure seems a lot less stupid, so I voted for it.

Posted by: Steve T on February 2, 2008 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

My default position is a straight no on all positions. From what I hear, this time, that's a very safe way to go.

- The community college funding one would tighten the state's budgetary straightjacket.

- The term limit thing is, at best, neutral. The biggest effect it seems to have is to cut off the ladder between the assembly and the state senate, forcing both parties to run amateurs.

- The gambling measures aren't likely to raise much money for the state, but they do loosen the shackles on a local gambling industry that is much less carefully regulated than the Nevada casinos. I don't think gambling itself is inherently immoral, but I think we should also look at the societal costs, not just the people who lose their shirts because they're addicted to gambling but also the tribes torn apart because those in power can amass bigger fortunes if they define away half of their fellows.

So: no, no, no, etc.

Posted by: Wireless Enthusiast on February 2, 2008 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote, "The new law [Prop. 93] is simpler: it limits service to 12 years total, in either house. This is how I would have written the law in the first place, and it's a good compromise between limiting legislative service while still allowing politicians to gain enough experience to know how to run things. This is one of those rare initiatives I'm in favor of."

Kevin, why do you favor limits on the right of citizens to vote for the state legislator they believe best qualified, especially when there are no term limits for lobbyists and pundits and other influence-peddlers? Having highly-experienced, highly-paid lobbyists and inexperienced, moderately-paid legislators strikes me as a lousy paradigm for creating a deliberative body strongly skilled in formulating policy in the public interest.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on February 2, 2008 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with adam. I'm voting no on 93.

The change supposedly limits total time in the state legislature to 12 years. However, when pols start losing their jobs over the 12-year limit, I think they'll find some way to change the law again.

Posted by: ex-liberal on February 2, 2008 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Prop 93, like most laws, resembles a sausage. The backroom stuff smells, and the current occupants of the legislature get a sweetheart deal. But that will pass with time, and we really need to change our law eventually. It just doesn't make much sense right now.

Joel: I don't mind having moderate term limits to keep people from making a career out of state politics. However, I'm mainly in favor of 93 because it's better than the current law. No one's giving me the opportunity to get rid of term limits completely.

Wireless: Remember that 94-97 are referendums. If your default is No on initiatives, it ought to be Yes on referendums. (Gotta let someone make the laws, after all.) If you're against an expansion of gambling on substantive grounds, of course, that's another thing.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on February 2, 2008 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

If they want to redesign term limits in order to have a better legislature, then let them write an initiative that way and we can pass it in 2010. A much better initiative to pass would be one that removes the two-thirds requirement for passing a budget and makes it a simple majority. Then, if Republicans and fiscally conservative Democrats are willing to run as social liberals, they can contest a lot more seats. As for the gambling referenda, the problem with these is that the state gets a lot less in taxes than it should. If we are going to allow for a significant change in our social climate, then the least we can expect is to make money off it. There is also a problem with the fact that these compacts make a very few people very rich but keep the rest poor.

Posted by: Bob G on February 2, 2008 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Taught in community college for 20 years and lived through perpetual budget hell and Prop 92 screws the cc's even worse--measure says cc's lose $70 million annually if this passes with reduction of student fees. And bet your bottom legislature is not going to make up $70 million loss. Prop 92 lowers fees, cc's lose money, and fires or never hires more teachers and CUTS classes. Students and parents shooting themselves in the foot with this one. Enormous amount of financial aid out there and I saw it being passed out (often to lazy losers) every day.

I am a liberal well read in American history but not going to be suckered again with a bleeding heart on Indian gambling expansion with phony quid pro quo. We live sadly near a casino that is arrogantly eating up the land around and wrecking a beautiful pastoral valley community with expansion and supported in doing so with Bureau of Indian Affairs and their lawyers. Car break ins up, larceny and burglary up, gambling addiction up, alcohol consumption and DUI driving up. Governor Narcissist and legislature have been bribed off on this one and have not guaranteed the state as much as they could considering the billions the Indians are raking in. ("Indians" around here are 98.9% Mexican.) They're laughing all the way to the bank on this one, not to mention how new Indian neighbors down the street rake in $150,000 a month and have ten cars/Escalades parked on lawn and street. Only drive them to meetings to screw people they feel do not meet DNA reqs.

We were played for suckers original Indian casino prop and they're doing it while we cry again with guilt. Spare me the historical violins.

Posted by: Mellors on February 2, 2008 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

As someone who worked for legislative leadership staff, I've never been enamored of term limits, and I think California voters did themselves a real disservice by enacting them.

What terms limits ensure is that every biennium, at one-third of the legislature will be rookies. It takes at least two years to learn the ins and outs of the legislative process (trust me on that one!), so by the time your elected officials get a handle on it, they're booted out that body for life.

But here's the rub that I hope people will consider, from one who served as professional staff: there are no term limits on the professional legislative staff, who most all live in and around Sacramento. We're still going to be there, regardless of who you elect to serve in the State Capitol ever few years. And because we're there, we know our way around in ways that your own elected representatives don't.

As such, a legislature that perpetually bleeds from high turnover, like California's, becomes overly dependent upon veteran staff like myself, who aren't elected. Oftentimes, new legislators will defer to us, because we supposedly know what we're doing. And because we're there, year in and year out, we're the ones who develop long-term relationships with lobbyists, etc.

So I would urge California voters to think about that aspect, before they dismiss Proposition 93 in a knee-jerk reaction. This isn't about Sen. Peralta and Speaker Nunez, so stop making your decisions based on those two personalities. Eventually, Perata and Nunez will depart the scene, but your legislature will still be there, and still face the same problems, and will be hiring the same unelected staff members to serve them.

Proposition 93 is but one small part of the heavy lifting that's necessary to make your legislature functional again. The voters were the ones who've used and abused the initiative process to either bypass or hamstring the legislature; it's up to those same voters to fix it.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 2, 2008 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

I voted no on the Indian gambling initiatives on my absentee ballot. I believe that gambling ought to be either legal or illegal. We shouldn't have some murky in-between status wherein it's sorta legal. I don't have a problem with it being either way--there's only so many issues I can care about--but I figure if people want to gamble (and it seems they do), let's just let anyone open a casino in California if they want to. It seems like a White guilt kind of thing to just let the Indians do it, and that doesn't move me at all. It's not like we chased off the Indians and burned their casinos, after all...

I agree that the default position on ballot propositions ought to be no, and I will vote for the first gubernatorial candidate, Republican or Democrat, that vows to do away with them. I elect representatives to pass laws for me. Theoretically, they're supposed to be educated in the issues. The average person is decidedly not. If a representatve screws it up, we can vote him out of office. Not so much with the public. And these things are always financed by wealthy special interests and always wind up being litigated for ages. Waste of time. So if a Republican wants to get my vote to get elected governor, they know what they need to do.

Posted by: Lev on February 2, 2008 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK
Kevin, why do you favor limits on the right of citizens to vote for the state legislator they believe best qualified, especially when there are no term limits for lobbyists and pundits and other influence-peddlers? Having highly-experienced, highly-paid lobbyists and inexperienced, moderately-paid legislators strikes me as a lousy paradigm for creating a deliberative body strongly skilled in formulating policy in the public interest.

Yeah, instead without term limits we get senators and representatives who've spent so much time with those same lobbyists they're practically family.

They go to the same cocktail parties, the same gyms, the same clubs. And I'm sure they also provide a big cash influx to their favorite (incumbent) candidate whom they've had years, if not decades to assimulate, co-op, or otherwise get them into their pockets.

While a constant stream of new people keeps the lobbyists off balance. They don't know what buttons to push, what pressure points the new people are vulnerable on.

And the constant bullshit about "legislators are just learning the ropes AFTER DECADES ON THE JOB is the most laughable, pin-headed excuse I've EVER heard in my life.

Honestly, what the hell needs to be learned by any legislator that takes decades for them to learn? Especially things that they should already know as soon as they start (how to understand bills, rules of the senate/house, etc.).

Finally, the last lame excuse of an argument against term limits, "we lose good people that way". Well guess what, good, effective, and moral people are born every fucking day. There will never be a shortage of qualified candidates in the population.

Finding them or getting them elected is a different matter. And in fact, not have term limits (and allowing machines to form within the legislative bodies) makes it much, much harder for young blood to get in. Your current Senator may be good, but there might be someone out there who's great and doesn't have the political machinery built up that the incumbent (decades on the job) undoubtedly does.

I would suggest everyone read Thomas Jefferson's essay, "The Dead Have No Rights".

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 2, 2008 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

Two questions:

(1) My understanding is that it was only about 8 years that tribal gambling was allowed in CA, and that the claim at the time was that it was going to lead to all sorts of marvelous improvements in tribal society --- lower unemployment, more kids in school, less substance abuse, less crime etc etc.
OK, it's been 8 years. How has that worked out?
My natural inclination is to vote no on the gambling props for a variety of reasons, but I am prepared to vote yes IF those claims for an improved society were actually borne out. I have to suspect that they were BS given that I've not seen a single pro-gambling ad that ever mentioned these supposed wonderful improvements that occurred since 8 yrs ago.

(2) What do people think of the telephone tax measures? I thought these were a narrowly parochial Pasadena measure, but my quick skimming of the LA Times makes me think LA has much the same measure up for the vote.
The Pasadena initiative is to retain/expand the existing phone tax to occur on all phone-like entities including internet calls.
My natural inclination is to vote no based on
(a) it's as close to a poll tax as you get in this day and age, and I like my taxes rather more progressive than that and
(b) it looks like an open-ended invitation to meddle in the direction of future technology which always makes me leary

Posted by: Maynard Handley on February 2, 2008 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

I went no on the tribal stuff.....how did just four tribes get this deal, and if they are suffering so much without more slots, how come they got enough money to fill my mailbox with a forest full of glossy paper.

This was a good case of folks with too much money using some of it to get even more and it involves deals neither you nor I had any good view of and vague claims of more money for the treasury.

The deal is just that...a "deal" in the worst sense of the word and none of them got my vote.

Posted by: dweb on February 2, 2008 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Nice straw men you have lined up there, Dr. Morpheus. Never saw anything like 'em.

Legislators are made, not born. It's not just a matter of hooking up with lobbyists and arranging a nice sinecure. It takes time to establish connections within the community they represent. It takes time to learn the various legislative rules, get acquainted with all the various entities within the legislature (committees, staff members). The complexities of legislative life have grown with the complexities of our economy and society. Two years to "learn the ropes" is entirely reasonable. The problem is, lobbyists are quite happy to serve as "educators" -- and they have a lot more resources than second-term legislators who are just hitting their stride. If "institutional memory" is in their hands rather than that of seasoned legislators, we all lose -- except for those who pay the lobbyists.

Republican support for term limits has died down a lot after it turned out they couldn't turn more D seats to their party that went the other way. The change in the law -- which makes it a lot more sensible in exchange for effectively extending the terms of a couple of legislative leaders -- is a good compromise (and the "stink" of the deal will blow off before long). Only in the attitude of California legislators where compromise is equivalent to defeat (an attitude which continues to render them relatively impotent) is the compromise not worth doing.

Posted by: idlemind on February 2, 2008 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

What's happened?

Tribes are in better shape than ever. While there are some problems with gambling and losing tribal lands... They aren't slums with people stuck in them forever to choose between maybe having a life by losing their identity and keeping one's home and identity and not having any chance.

They have their identity and chance at family like everyone else does.

93 is stupid - it's a way for the worst politicians to get around the prior term limits. If you don't support term limits, then you don't want to support this: Because it means that term limits would be applied unequally, which is the worst part about it.

Posted by: Crissa on February 2, 2008 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Proposition 92 is yet another "ballot-box budgeting" measure. By setting certain standards for community college funding (and limits on student fees), it encroaches on legislative flexibility in trying to craft each year's state budget. However, I'm voting for it. Proposition 92 may not be the best way to go, but it means that the community colleges won't be going to the annual gunfight with only a knife. In the past, the legislature has typically shorted the community college's share of Proposition 98 funding (which supposedly helped K-14, not just K-12). If 92 passes, the legislature can't single out community colleges for rougher treatment.

Yeah, I'm a community college instructor and I'm tired of having my ox gored. If everyone else is playing the ballot-box game, my segment of higher education has to do the same or keep getting shafted. Not exactly a win-win situation.

Posted by: Zeno on February 2, 2008 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a bit surprised that Kevin Drum would so explicitly try to fool people about the bogus Prop 93. I would have thought that he would have at least offered lip service to the fact that it would allow 20+ bad legislators to continue in office for years. That includes FabianNunez, someone who even the LosAngelesTimes has been investigating about his highly questionable dealings.

I would have thought Drum would have given his readers a bit more credit, but I guess I was wrong.

[Note: WM and/or Kevin Drum may find this comment "annoying" and delete it or edit it without warning.]

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on February 2, 2008 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

You mean gambling.

Posted by: skeptonomist on February 2, 2008 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

The SF Bay Guardian opposes these measures. They think that the money forwarded to the state and other tribes is chump change.


Are they correct? Beats me.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on February 2, 2008 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

Note: Noting that you think your comment will get lost is a bit vain. And rude.

Posted by: Crissa on February 2, 2008 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

I despise term limits. If people won't focus on voting rascals out of their own districts, and not meddling elsewhere, they deserve the rascals that represent them.

Only in the U.S., the "home of democracy."s

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 2, 2008 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

I personally see little wrong with many professional politicans, what's wrong with acknowledging the peter principle? Some people are very good state legislators, but don't belong in Washington, or as a statewide office holder. And what this bill also does, as mentioned above, is removes a rung of the ladder for those without preexisting money, power or fame. if you started with none of those advantages, it could easily take 12 years to build up enough of a name or honest money sources to run for statewide office. But hey, if people want only the wealthy to be senators, attorney general, governor and the like, why not?

Posted by: Northzax on February 2, 2008 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

Lone Wacko (publisher of one of the most racist hate sites currently out there) SHOULD BE banned/ignored/deleted, IMHO.

He has the distinction of being banned at RedState for making racist statements. And probably 100-200 other sites.

I am against censorship, but all for marginalizing the opinions of freaks like him.

Whatever ya'll got going on in California, hey, the rest of the country will catch up in about ten years or so.

Posted by: Pale Rider on February 2, 2008 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

I'm definitely against the gambling prop. We were suckered when we allowed Indian gambling to expand in the '90's. I, like most people, thought of the poverty and injustice that might be somewhat ameliorated. Instead, we spawned billion dollar entities that became one of the largest sources of lobbying money in California. More, the tribes saw no reason why they should have to abide by state laws that required them to report on their lobbying efforts.

Their sovereign immunity is the dream of Halliburton. Injured at a casino? You won't be seeing justice in court, since they can't be sued. Think maybe the games are crooked? Tough luck, there is no impartial oversight or regulation. Say, someone gets their drink on at a casino and engages in a little vehicular homicide; not the tribe's problem or liability since they are a sovereign nation. Environmental laws, highway standards,employee rights: all rejected by the gambling tribes.

There is no denying the unspeakable treatment of Native Americans in this country, but aside from easing a little guilt, allowing these sovereign corporations to rake in even more money works to the detriment of society.

Posted by: Mat View on February 2, 2008 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Morpheus, you seem to have all the answers. Why don't you run for the state legislature -- or even your city council? Put your money where your mouth is.

Or do you just like to bitch?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 2, 2008 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

It is an illusion to believe that Props 94-97 will bring any meaningful NEW revenue to the California budget.

When casinos expand, people just shift their spending from non-casino things to the casino. When this shift happens, tax revenues will fall as spending on restaurants, video stores, etc falls. Yes, the Tribes then might give some money to the State, but this might only match the loss of tax/income tax revenue experienced when spending shifts to the casinos.

Yes a little spending might be shifted from, say, Vegas to California but studies show this is relatively small.

These props are about making 4 tribes still richer (because, you know, earning $100,000,000 in tax-free profits each year just doesn't go as far as it once did).

None of the "extra" (sic) state revenue is slated to go to other (poor) Tribes.

Posted by: Eric Nilsson on February 3, 2008 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

Here are three things that we Californians can do to better our state:

1. Repeal the initiative system.

2. Repeal term limits.

3. Repeal Prop. 13.

Also, I have another question for the Californians who read Washington Monthly. Do people really like Governor Schwarzenegger? It seems like people outside California like him and think of him as some great governor, while most people I know can't stand him (granted, I live in the Bay Area).


Posted by: adlsad on February 3, 2008 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii - please expand on what you (as an insider) think needs to be done for us to have a functional legislature in CA again - what we have is clearly broken.

Posted by: arteclectic on February 3, 2008 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii As someone who worked for legislative leadership staff, I've never been enamored of term limits, and I think California voters did themselves a real disservice by enacting them.

Agreed. I see term limits as essentially automatizing the process and taking choice away from the voters. Voters lose the freedom to return a representative (or president) who's doing a good job. That there are so pushed in the U.S. is more a sign of a broken system. Voters (quite rightly) believe the system is too easily rigged and can't produce change on it's own. If your races were more naturally competitive, if incumbents almost always had a reasonably good chance of getting kicked out, there'd be far less cry for term limits. I'd much rather see a focus on:

1. voters having equal access to the polls
2. candidates having equal access to the media
3. ensuring a system of voting that is standard and understandable to all
4. that all cast votes should be verifiable

I think then you'd see a much higher rate of incumbents losing than the 1% that had become standard before the (still much muted) losses of 2006.

Posted by: snicker-snack on February 3, 2008 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

Term limit laws suck. If you want to limit someone's term, DON'T VOTE FOR HIM. But don't try to prevent ME from voting for the person I want to.

Term limit supporters are essentially telling people they know what is best for them, and will do them a favor by preventing them for voting for the person they, in their ignorance, like. It is elitist in the extreme.

If you think incumbents have an unfair advantage, then DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT, like campaign finance reform. Term limits are a simple-minded hack that throws out the baby with the bath water.

Posted by: sc on February 3, 2008 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

Term limits were all the rage 15-20 years ago. Republicans loved the idea, 'cause it would wind up kicking out a number of well-established Democratic legislators, allowing Republicans a chance to both fill the resulting power vacuum and perhaps take some formerly Democratic seats away. It didn't work. The "cave men" in the CA legislature (so-called not just because of their troglodyte views but also due to their refusal to associate with anyone outside of their own caucus) expected control to just fall in their laps. As a result they're more marginalized than ever, and have been hampered by term limits at least as badly as the Democrats.

Posted by: idlemind on February 3, 2008 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

I think that most of us agree that the guaranteed sinecure-for-life arrangement that many legislators had in the past was undesirable.

But at least some of us don't favor strict term limits for a variety of reasons.

I mentioned upthread that I think it would be best to have a scenario where legislators weren't forced from office at some arbitrary time, but were easier to defeat.

Here's a silly idea I just had that probably makes no sense at all :) But I thought I'd throw it out.

What would happen in a world where there were no strict term limits, but a legislator was required to get 50% of the vote for some period of time (like 6 years/8 years?) and required to get 55% of the vote for another period (maybe another 6 years) and then needed 60% forever after.

That would be a politician who would have to keep his constituents VERY happy! Or -- maybe it would just distort things further, forcing the politician to spend ALL his time fundraising just to hold his seat, and the little free time available to bringing in pork.

But it was a thought and I was wondering what anyone thought of it...

Posted by: Steve T on February 3, 2008 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure there are a few issues related to Props 94-97 that I am unaware of. However, in general I am in favor of continued support for Native American gaming endeavors. The money from these casinos has allowed many tribes to start important cultural preservation programs and language revitalization programs. Without this money, more of Native American culture would have been lost to American colonial processes.

Posted by: Native American researcher on February 3, 2008 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Where is the recall measure for musclehead and serial molester Ahnold Schwarzenegger? He should spend a little time in the California prison system for destroying the economy there...

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 3, 2008 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

The ballot initiative was meant to be pure democracy. It has turned into a vehicle for special interests to buy bad legislation absent the checks and balances of the political institutions.

While political institutions can stagnate and need to be challenged they have an important and often under-appreciated role. Republicans excoriate political institutions because those institutions are major checks to their otherwise unfettered, special interest backers.

Posted by: bakho on February 3, 2008 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

How about term limits that reset? You cannot be in either house for more than 12 years straight. Then you have to do something else -- but not lobby.

Repeal of Prop 13 and the 2/3 Budget vote and all of the stupid mandates would be an excellent start to allowing a decent governance in California again.

Posted by: freelunch on February 3, 2008 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK


It's "gambling," not "gaming." I wouldn't have expected you to fall for that.

Posted by: redterror on February 3, 2008 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I'm voting against Props 94-97 because if I wanted to live in a state that was supporting by gambling (or gaming), I'd move to Nevada.

Though I'd like to also be able to line up all of the opponents and slap them, because they aren't exactly angels, either, and I don't think they should win without some kind of penalty for their mopery.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on February 3, 2008 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I was going to vote for Prop. 93, but I was persuaded by Armed Liberal's argument that it's necessary to vote no to preserve some carrot to get the legislature to enact redistricting reform.

The indian measures were easy for me: whatever the law is wrt what needs to be done for gaming compacts to be binding, we have no *moral* right whatsoever to tell the indian tribes what to do on their own land.

Posted by: aphrael on February 3, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I predict that Mitt Romney will win the Republican primary in California. You heard it here first.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on February 3, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Term limits in California should be called the Get Rid of Willie Brown Act, since he was the principal person it was aimed at.

Posted by: anandine on February 3, 2008 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Wireless Enthusiast: I think your default should be no on initiatives and yes on referenda, because of their different procedural process.

With an initiative, activists get together and circulate a petition to make a change to the law. A 'yes' enacts the change, a 'no' defeats it.

With a referendum, activists who are pissed at something the legislature has done get together and circulate a petition to undo the law. A 'yes' *confirms* the law as it already exists, a 'no' undoes the law (eg, it does what the petition circulators want).

A status quo vote would be a 'yes' on referendum and a 'no' on an initiative.

Posted by: aphrael on February 3, 2008 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Term limits are a bad idea in principle, but in a state without competitive elections, they're the only way to keep the legislative leadership from becoming calcified. Until we have redistricting and campaign finance reform, I want to keep our current stupid term limits in place. If something can't get passed by the legislature because of pig-headed leadership, I want the chance to get new leadership rotating into office often.

Posted by: CA Pol Junkie on February 3, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I'm forced to be in the California Teacher's Assn. (CTA). In their correspondence with members, I do not believe the CTA made a recommendation on props 94-97. One of the ads against these measures mentions "no money for schools" but that's a red herring. If they pass, the overall state budget will be under less pressure and that's good for K12 ed.

Prop 92, the community college proposition, is a terrible piece of legislation the CTA came out against.

A majority of students who start community college in CA do not end up with a degree. Fees are incredibly cheap already, and anyone with a HS degree is admitted, so that unserious and unprepared students swell enrollment; this protects the individual campuses, who don't want to show declining enrollment even thought they are not held accountable for the atrocious dropout rate. Further subsidizing dropouts is not the way to improve the CC system.

Besides, this proposal robs Peter (K12) to pay Paul (CC).

The taxpayers of the State would get a better return on their investment by improving the K12 system so that future CC students will be prepared to do college level work.

I have a great many students that adopt "I'll just go to community college" attitude despite mediocre grades. It was a huge mistake to pretend that all students had the faculties and interests required for college academics. All this $ would be better spent on vocational programs and internships for older HS students. Right now, these students are being sold on the importance of college while seeing how fantastically cheap and easy it is start CC and many end up finessing the minimum during HS, crippling their overall education.

Lowering costs for CC looks student-friendly, but it isn't in the long run. I can't imagine how a student really committed to their education couldn't manage to afford the current fee structure. Bleeding hearts that want to maximize opportunity should take a look at how many students choose CC instead of applying to the UC or CSU system because of the cost of the 4 year schools, whose tuition has risen at a far greater rate than the CCs in recent years.

Posted by: ScottS on February 3, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider reaches deep for his inner Stalinist and falsely characterizes my site. As for RedState, see this. My last post there contained a temporally ambiguous quote from someone else, and last I checked they still have my content on their site.

While I've had comments deleted (including several from this site) and been banned, it was because I pointedly disagreed with the host(s). The list of sites that have done that can be found by searching at my site for the name of our host.

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on February 3, 2008 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

ScottS wrote a nice post. It was sinful to kill off vocational training in the high schools. But I take issue with Scott's point about subsidizing dropouts. I dropped out of SMC many, many times (at least seven) and, after years of coming to terms with an LD, I graduated from UCLA.

The proposition sounds horrible and it'll get a no vote from me but let's not misconstrue the role of the CC's--not everyone can do well in high school or college after graduating high school but second, third, fourth and even seventh opportunities can and should be available.

Of course, this would be a moot point if this happened: "The taxpayers of the State would get a better return on their investment by improving the K12 system so that future CC students will be prepared to do college level work." (ScottS)

If that happnes, great. I hope it happens in my lifetime and preferably before my son goes to middle school this September.

Posted by: SufferingBruin on February 3, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

By the by, this is a terrific thread.

Posted by: SufferingBruin on February 3, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

I've seen this misspelling take hold here and I find it irksome. It's amendment. Not ammendment.

Posted by: Caslon on February 3, 2008 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

The slot machine initiatives stink. State auditting of slot revenue is limmited to 4 times a year. So basically, revenue is what the casinos say it is. No good unless you are very naive.

The Cal tribes pulled in over $7 billion in 2005 alone. Less than 5% of that is payed out to the state and other tribes. The new machines are worth a few billion more in revenues, but the state only gets $100 million.

California needs to push for a reasonable deal, like 25% of revenue. That would be worth over $2 billion a year in new state revenue.

The casinos are already distorting Cal politics, the spent over $150 million on "convincing" the Gov and legislature that these new mandates are a good idea. They are also spending roughly $100 million on the 94-97 ad campaign. Does that give you some inkling of the amount of money generated by these casinos?

Really, Kevin. You usually do your homework better.

Posted by: Broken on February 3, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK



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