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LAist Guide to the Primary: Proposition 93

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While the presidential election is the sexy supermodel on the Feb. 5 California Primary ballot, there are seven propositions on the ballot this year with issues ranging from transportation funds and community college funding to term limits and gaming.

In the last two weeks, we acquainted ourselves with:

Proposition 91 and,
Proposition 92

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This leads us to our next stop on this Tour de Propositions to explore the intricacies of 93, which mainly covers term limits.

Who's excited? I am!

After the jump, complete analysis and we'll tell you how many millions of dollars have already been spent trying to get you to vote Yes or No. Plus: Seriously, do you care?

What it says:


  • Prop. 93 reduces the total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years.
  • It allows a person to serve a total of 12 years either in the Assembly, the Senate, or a combination of both.
  • Finally, 93 provides a transition period to allow current members to serve a total of 12 consecutive years in the house in which they are currently serving, regardless of any prior service in another house.

What is the current law?

  • Term limits are at least as old as American democracy and are appealing to voters because their aim is to restrict the amount of time an elected official can serve in a particular office.
  • In the 1990 general November election, voters passed Proposition 140 which changed the state constitution to impose limits on the number of terms our state legislators could serve. It allows legislators to serve no more than 14 years, which divides itself cleanly into 3, two-year terms in the State Assembly and 2, four-year terms in the State Senate.

How would it change your life?

  • You'll become better, faster, stronger. Wait, no you won't. If passed, you might find more fliers in your mail more often, but, other than that, you're safe. Your legislators might be as well.
  • Under this measure, existing members of the legislature could serve up to a total of 12 years in their current legislative house (regardless of how many years were already served in the other houses), which could result in some members serving longer than 14 years in the legislature.

Financial impact on you, the tax payer:

  • There is no direct fiscal effect on taxpayers or local governments, though it could lead to some sort of financial impact as different politicians with different budget ideas might replace others, some of whom have had a hand in steering this state toward our current budget gap.

Who supports it?

These guys, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That's significant because, as of Monday, Schwarzenegger was against 93. In an Op-Ed he wrote in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times, the Gov. said, "Under the current system, our elected officials are not given the time they need to reach their full potential as public servants."

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When Prop. 93 was first introduced, Schwarzenegger said he would not support it without a companion redistricting measure. The Legislature did not come up with one and the Gov. stood strong in his opposition until the pot got a little sweeter, or healthier at least.

Schwarzenegger's backing is a boost for the Proposition 93 campaign and its chief proponent, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), who will be forced out of his seat after this year unless the term-limits law is changed. Nuñez endeared himself to Schwarzenegger by pushing a healthcare overhaul that the two leaders negotiated through the Assembly last month.

Schwarzenegger denied last month that the two had cooked up "an exchange" of support for their pet measures. (LA Times)

There are also a ton of backers from the private and government sectors, including former Gov. Gray Davis for some reason. He might just be bored and miss Sacramento.


  • Some politicians like it because they think 93 will allow them to sped more time working on issues and less time running for office.
  • The Yes on 93 folks like it because it invigorates politics, they say.
    This proposition strikes a reasonable balance between the need to elect new people with fresh ideas, and the need for experienced legislators with the knowledge and expertise to solve the complex problems facing our state. (Yes on Proposition 93)

  • While the No on 93 peeps say this is just a sham law that allows politicians, like Nuñez, to stay in office, others say, Yeah, so what?
    It scares me to put a state with 37 million people and a twelve-figure budget in the hands of policy-makers with so little experience. Imagine how long it would take you to understand the nuances of budgeting, taxation, water, energy, environment, prisons, health care, education, transportation, agriculture, criminal and civil law, and so forth. Can you do it in two years?(California Progress Report)

How much they've spent trying to tell you to vote Yes?

Who opposes it?

  • One of the more vocal opponents of 93 has been California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who co-wrote the measure. It is estimated that Poizner has spent about $1.5 million of his own money to defeat this bill.
  • Also, the California Chamber of Commerce recently voted to oppose the measure and many California State Republicans oppose the bill as well.Why?

  • Poizner, who is positioning himself for a 2010 gubernatorial run, believes the measure is nothing more than a "naked power grab" by legislative incumbents.
  • Other naysayers of 93, like certain newspaper editorial boards, like the idea of term limits, but not as they are written in this proposition.
    But Proposition 93 is not a serious reform of term limits. If it is passed, Núñez, Perata and many other incumbents could run for re-election in the June primary. Many of them still would be around when the time comes, after the 2010 census, to draw the legislative boundaries again.(Modesto Bee)
  • Proposition 93, opponents say, is "not reform when it dramatically increases terms for more than 80% of state legislators. [It] is an arrogant and self serving power grab by career politicians."
    Under the Politicians’ Scheme, Assembly Terms Would Be Doubled and Senate Terms Increased by 50% and 42 Termed Out Incumbents Could Remain in Office (Stop the Politicians)

How much have they spent trying to get you to vote No?

  • Two different No on 93 groups received $5,909,334.13in contributions and spent $2,013,172.83.

Who's wining so far?

  • Support has slipped slightly for the proposition. In an August Field poll, 59 percent of voters signaled their support for 93 while 30 percent opposed. In December, 50 percent said Yes on 93 and 32 percent said No. Eighteen percent said they were undecided.

What do you think?

Flickr image of "VOTE" via d.rex; Flickr image of the capitol building Sacramento via hanneorla; Image of Fabian Nuñez via his website; Flickr image of Steve Poizner via Massei Family Photos