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California legislature end-run ploy sad testimony to state leadership

My political mentor, the venerable Earl Williams, head honcho at the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, says “California is the “sixth largest economy in the world run by third world minds.” Earl likely regrets saying that since he often is found lobbying some of those folks. Nevertheless, it is a truth I repeat often, and people chuckle.

However, no one is laughing these days as political pundits are exposing an unbelievable political end-run the California Legislature is trying to foist on California voters.

Agricultural lobbyist and Hanford, Calif. dairyman George Soares talked about it a year ago at agricultural conferences. It is coming to full light for all Californians now that the ploy has a name, Proposition 93.

Remember all the talk about giving California more clout in selecting presidential nominees with a February primary? It is all smoke and mirrors to get another boatload of infamous and misleading California propositions on the ballot. There are seven on the February ballot. Proposition 93 is the one being exposed as the self-serving ploy by state legislators.

Voter-approved term limits now limit a California state senator to 8 years and state assembly members to 6 years. Proposition 93 — entitled “Limits on Legislators' Terms in Office” — reduces that to 12 years. However, it allows all 12 years to be served in one house. On the surface, it seems reasonable. Let a politician serve in one chamber and maybe it would provide some legislative stability and long term, effective leadership.

However, the proposition was cooked up for purely selfish reasons, primarily by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Don Perata to extend not only their leadership terms, but 40 other Republican and Democratic California legislators who term out under current law.

If the February proposition passes, Nunez and Perata and their cronies will run for re-election in the June primary to log in their 12 years.

Many of those who would be kept in office by passage of the Prop 93 end-run would be around after the 2010 Census when legislature boundaries are again redrawn. This would be an open invitation to keep the California legislature politically polarized and largely ineffective offering little hope of solving problems like California's growing state water crisis, a crumbling infrastructure, economic malaise caused by an unfriendly business atmosphere, struggling public education, and a host of other issues.

Term limits are a good idea gone bad. Everyone wants to dink with them to get a better class of legislator. The 12-year Prop 93 plan may not be a bad idea, if it would become effective after the current crowd is termed out.

Regardless, the time to modify the state's term limit law came to an end when Proposition 93 was created. It is time to toss the baby out with the wash and eliminate term limits. Vote the current legislature out of office and start over. The sooner the better.

There is no guarantee it would entice more qualified, consensus-building moderates to serve in public office. However, what is certain is that the current term limit system only serves to attract, one-issue, self-serving politicians who govern with third world minds.

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