Defeat of Prop. 93 means exodus in Legislature |

Defeat of Prop. 93 means exodus in Legislature

SACRAMENTO – California voters’ refusal to alter state legislators’ term limits will force three of the Legislature’s top leaders to give up their posts.

It also will free candidates running for 34 legislative seats from having to face an incumbent this year.

Proposition 93 aimed to trim two years off the maximum amount of time most legislators could serve, but it also would have given dozens of lawmakers a chance to extend their stays in Sacramento.

It failed by about 7 percentage points, despite support from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a who’s who of labor unions, corporations and professional groups that poured nearly $16 million into the Yes-on-93 campaign.

Opponents raised more than $7 million, fueled primarily by $2.5 million from state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and $2 million from the prison guards’ union.

Defeat of the initiative means that Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin, and 31 other incumbents will be barred from running for re-election this year.

Schwarzenegger blamed the defeat on lawmakers’ failure to accomplish much last year. “I think it’s very clear that the people felt the legislators have not performed well enough (to) deserve a change there,” he said.

Poizner said voters didn’t like the fact that the measure helped some incumbents remain in office longer.

“Do not send us initiatives that are full of complex and convoluted language that is intended to deceive voters,” he said. “Do not send us propositions that contain these special loopholes just for incumbent politicians.”

Perata said the measure was likely doomed from the outset because it protected incumbents and didn’t change the way legislative districts are drawn.

“I think it was pretty clear what the voters wanted, and they weren’t given it,” Perata said. “If you wanted to say it was flawed, you sure gave everybody a reason for it.”

He criticized Schwarzenegger for giving the measure minimal support and for blaming lawmakers even as he seeks their cooperation in addressing the state’s massive budget deficit.

“‘We’re all in this together,’ until he’s giving a speech,” Perata said. “I want to work together with him, but every time I think we get some kind of approachment, some agreement, I end up reading in the paper that I’m getting the back of the hand. It’s just not constructive.”

California’s current term limits, among the toughest in the nation, allow someone to serve up to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate in most instances – a total of 14.

Proposition 93 would have cut the maximum time to 12 years but given legislators the option of serving all 12 in one house instead of trying to split time between the two.

Pre-election polls showed voters supporting those changes but balking at a transition phase provision that would have allowed nearly a third of current lawmakers to serve longer than 14 years.

The proposal made that possible because it would have only counted the time a lawmaker had spent in his or her current house against the new 12-year limit.

Supporters said the measure would keep reasonable term limits in place while easing the exodus of experienced lawmakers and the musical-chairs atmosphere that exists every two years as termed-out lawmakers maneuver to run for other offices.

Opponents attacked the proposition as an attempt by incumbents to extend their terms. They argued that most legislators would serve longer under the measure because it would eliminate the need to run for a seat in the other house to serve more than six or eight years.

Núñez and Perata have the option of running for seats in the other house, although Núñez would have to wait until 2010 for a Senate seat to open up. But Ackerman’s legislative career is coming to an end.

Perata and Ackerman blamed the proposition’s defeat on the failure of lawmakers to put a measure on the same ballot taking away their ability to draw their districts, a power critics labeled a conflict of interest.

“If you want to try to solve the gridlock issue in Sacramento you need (redistricting) and term limit modification, not just one,” said Ackerman, who opposed Proposition 93. “We thought if we had the total package … we could get it through.”

Ackerman said Sens. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Temecula, and George Runner, R-Lancaster, are potential candidates to succeed him as minority leader.

Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Wednesday that he’s a candidate for Perata’s job, the most powerful in the Senate. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, said he is seriously considering running too.

Several lawmakers are reportedly interested in succeeding Núñez, including Assemblywomen Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco.

If one of them wins the post, she would be only the second woman elected speaker.

Ackerman said he had no timeline in mind for Senate Republicans to elect his successor. Perata scheduled an Aug. 21 vote for majority Democrats to select a new president pro tempore before adjourning the 2008 session. But Perata said the new leader would not take power until after the November election.

A spokesman for Núñez, Steve Maviglio, said the speaker planned to meet with his caucus today and that a transition could be one of the topics.

– Associated Press writers Don Thompson and Samantha Young contributed to this report.

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