The wording of Proposition 28 is tricky. The information in the official voter guide says that Prop. 28 reduces the total amount of time a person may serve as a state legislator from 14 years to 12 years. Supporters of this measure argue that Prop. 28 places a definite 12-year limit on legislators.
But those against the measure say that it actually weakens term limits and lengthens a legislator’s time in office.
To understand the change, voters must know the existing term limits in the Assembly and the Senate. Currently, a legislator can serve a total of 14 years: two four-year terms, or a total of eight years in the Senate, and three, two-year terms, or a total of six years in the Assembly.
However, legislators can also fill vacancies, which equate to partial terms as long as they are fewer than one half of a term. These vacancies are not included in their term limits, and can add up to nearly 17 years in office.
Prop. 28 does reduce the terms legislators can serve from 14 to 12 years, and gets rid of what supporters of the measure call “the 17-year loophole” by making limits of time in office based on years instead of terms. However, it increases the number of years a legislator can serve in one chamber from eight years in the senate or six years in the Assembly to 12 years in either or both houses. According to Michael Shires, Ph.D., a professor at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, if this measure passes, voters will see names that stay on the ballot longer, strengthening incumbency.
There has been some confusion about whether or not Prop. 28 benefits current legislators. Those opposed to the measure fear Prop. 28 allows current legislators who are reelected, which is potentially about 80 percent of them, to receive the extended term limits added on to the time they have already been in office. However, the wording of the measure ensures that the changed term limits only affect first-time elected officials. Legislators currently in office remain under the existing term limits.
Supporters of the measure believe that the extension to 12 years will positively impact politics in Sacramento. They argue that with Prop. 28, there will fewer legislators starting from zero and learning the job of being a legislator from the beginning every few years.
Gabriel Sanchez, a spokesperson for Californians for a Fresh Start, a coalition in support of the measure, explains that with Prop. 28, legislators will stay in office longer, gain more experience, and have the expertise needed to do their jobs better. He says that “[Prop 28] makes term limits more effective.”
Those against the measure, including Californians for Term Limits, believe that Prop. 28 is a sham that deceives voters into thinking that term limits are reduced, when they are lengthened in one chamber. Those opposed believe that Prop. 28 gives legislators too much power.