09.30.2009 0

Editorial: California Governor “Crazed” Over Term Limits

  • On: 10/12/2009 09:36:12
  • In: Term Limits
  • Last week, a supine Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) fully succumbed to political establishmentarianism. He called legislative term limits in California “crazy.” And in so doing, he signed on with those he once stanchly opposed—the career politicians whose misguided policies long ago consigned the state to financial ruin

    In a San Francisco salute to former State Senator Jack Scott, Schwarzenegger said, “I actually miss him now that he’s not there but I know he was termed out because we have these crazy term limits here in California and people that are that experienced like him then have to leave and move on.”

    Term limits was originally enacted in 1990 when the public voted for a constitutional amendment that placed three two-year terms on the State House and two four-year terms on the State Senate. The public has reaffirmed their allegiance to term limits in two different referenda since. And, yet now, the popular law again under fire.
    It appears that every couple of years or so, the Sacramento political establishment attempts to weaken or repeal the law in order to insert themselves back into power and insulate themselves from the public weal. In both 2002 and 2008, with Propositions 45 and 93, the establishmentarians sought to extend the length of office. And both times, they were soundly defeated.

    This time, the bill is SCA 24. It is currently being considered in the State Senate, and it would lengthen the terms of office to 12 years in both the State House and Senate. This would effectively double the amount of time that can be served in the House and boost by one-third the time that can be served in the Senate.

    This is not the first time the Governor has struck out against term limits. After being dealt serious political defeats at the ballot in 2004, a chastened Schwarzenegger has wandered off the reservation ever since. For example, in 2008, he endorsed Proposition 93. Writing for the LA Times, Schwarzenegger suggested that politicians had a necessary learning curve, “It takes time to learn how to govern effectively. Under the current system, our elected officials are not given the time they need to reach their full potential as public servants.” Or, spend the state into total bankruptcy, he might well have added.

    All of which was a far cry from the Schwarzenegger that Californians elected in 2003. In fact, he once was a supporter of term limits. In 2003 as a candidate he said with some eloquence:

    “My campaign for Governor is based on the concept that California’s state government belongs to the people, not the career politicians. As we are now seeing with the state’s budget crisis and anti-business policies, it is too easy for the politicians to become disconnected from the people they are supposed to represent. That is why I believe in citizen-legislators and yes, even citizen-governors. It is also why I am such a strong believer in term limits.”

    Now, having sipped the heady elixir of political power, he thinks they’re “crazy.” U.S. Term Limits President Philip Blumel put it best on Friday when he said in a statement, “The only thing that’s crazy is thinking that out of 36.7 million people, only a confined, elite class of individuals are qualified or ‘experienced’ to hold public office. Does Schwarzenegger think he’s the only one ‘experienced’ to be governor, too?”

    California’s problems, and they are legion, were spawned by the very career politicians who now want to gut term limits. Term limits took effect 1996 for the House and 1998 for the Senate. By then, career politicians had already sown the disastrous seeds of fiscal ruin. And by 2004, just six years later, when Gray Davis had been thrown out on his ear, the budget had ballooned to some $76.33 million—despite all the efforts of citizen legislators to roll back the incoming tide of government largesse.

    Instead of blaming term limits for California’s problems, the Governor needs to leave a legacy of having taken the fight to the entrenched political establishment, embodied in the public employees unions that have drained the state dry.

    Anything less would be crazy.

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