1/24/08

Recommends NO on Prop 93 seniority scam

How stupid do legislators think California voters are? OK, maybe you shouldn’t answer that. We have swallowed some pretty big political “whoppers” over the years.

But not this time. Proposition 93 is a clumsy political sleight of hand that lacks the finesse of even an amateur magician.

Here’s the “scam.” Proposition 93 is being peddled as a tightening of the term limits California voters imposed on legislators in 1990. (By the way, the limits were imposed because voters were disgusted by do-nothing and sometimes corrupt lifetime legislators who were sucking the system dry.)

Proposition 93, on the Feb. 5 ballot, proposes to reduce from 14 years to 12 years the time a politician can serve in the Legislature. For those who favor term limits, so far so good.

But University of Southern California political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe is correct when she notes the “Legislature was just too cute by half” when lawmakers crafted this ballot “reform” measure.

The existing formula allows legislators to serve no more than six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate for a total of 14 years.

Proposition 93 would cap the years of service at 12, but allow all years to be served in one house.

Proposition 93 creates a special loophole that will benefit 42 incumbent politicians, including our very own Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, who are termed out. It will give them more time in office. Working the numbers right, some will be able to serve 20 years — forget about the existing 14-year cap.

And that’s why Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata are among those who are working so hard to get voters suckered into passing Proposition 93. The termed-out legislators would be able to serve an extra six years and four years in office, respectively. They want to hold on to their power.

If legislators had played it straight and not shaped this measure in such a self-serving way, voters might have gone along with it.

After all, California’s term limits are among the nation’s tightest. And an argument can be made that existing limits have created a distracting system in which career politicians bounce from one post to another — more interested in their next political step than in serving their constituents.

Institutional knowledge in Sacramento has dwindled with the churn. The power of lobbyists and special interests — and the money they ply — has grown. California has become nearly incapable of solving its increasing problems.

But opponents are correct to denounce Proposition 93 as nothing more than an arrogant power grab by career politicians.

That’s exactly what it is. Voters should tell these “too cute by half” politicians that we aren’t swallowing their baloney. Vote no.

(people.bakersfield.com)

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