As juls diaried here, the latest PPIC poll shows support for changing the current term limits law to Nunez’s prefered 12 years in either house or combo thereof plan at just 31%. Juls is rightly skeptical of that number yet it appears that the powers that be are taking it quite seriously indeed. In fact it looks like they’re already plotting plan B: challenging the term limits law in court.
First a little history. In 1990, CA voters, by a margin of 52-48%, passed Prop 140, which limited legislative service in the Assembly to six years (three terms) and Senate to eight years (two terms.) In 1991, the CA Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional.
Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, writing for the majority, said any value in retaining incumbents in office was outweighed by “the state’s strong interest in protecting against an entrenched, dynastic legislative bureaucracy.”
Well, Justice Lucas and others who voted with him in 1991 are no longer on the court, and Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), who is the senate’s lead man on term limit and redistricting reform, sees an opportunity to challenge the law in the courts anew rather than rely on a finicky public.
Calderon said he has been consulting with lawyers and other legislators and believes Proposition 140…could be challenged by a termed-out legislator.
“I would prefer to do that and let the court decide,” Calderon said, conceding voters are unlikely to overturn the law.
It’s unclear how term limits would fare if they were to make it to the CA Supreme Court. On one hand, there’s traditionally a deference paid to settled law. On the other hand, reversing term limit laws seems to be all the rage.
State supreme courts in four states — Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming — threw out the laws. Two other states — Idaho and Utah — have repealed their term-limit laws.
One question I’d have is whether Calderon sees the CA Supreme Court repealing term limits altogether or mandating some sort of legislative remedy. Because if the choice becomes between passing term limit reform next February or no term limits at all, then term limit supporters may just want to get behind the initiative. If Calderon has his way, the status quo may actually not be viable despite the fact that those voting NO next February will be voting for just that.