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The inefficiency of California Term Limits

There were calls for reforms in regards to elective terms of legislators in the 19th Century. This was though defeated since the electorate believed more in the people they elected to the offices. They saw the chance to winning a reelection as an incentive to the office bearer, which would encourage them to perform and get reelected. However with time this began to change with the professionalism and careerism on the rise among the office contenders. The legislators viewed their elected offices as a career choice and developed plans to have long careers. This lead to the invention of term limits to curb political careerism and promote politicians who would be more inclined towards society’s interests (Hajnal, Lewis, & Louch, 2002). They also wanted to help protect the legislators from being interfered by the public’s sway on certain things. In this paper we examine the problems brought about by term limits and proposals on how to reduce the negative term limits impact.
The Problem
There remain issues facing the term limits system of governance. Among the first issues is the argument that there exists lack of quality on the people seeking elective office. This is so because no sooner has a legislator is settled down in gaining experience, than the office term limit blocks a reelection. Legislators are said to be more concentrated on the next office that they will occupy compromising their output in the process. This is evidenced by the fact that the legislators do move from one committee to another quite often in order to be able to rise up the ladder faster. In the process they concentrate less on passing legislation bringing a very minimum or no bill to the house up for debating (Hajnal, Lewis, & Louch, 2002).
During the budget that will require a legislator’s input they are hardly available. The budget is right about the most important things a legislator is voted to go and work on as the resources make a large impact on the state. The budget presented by the governor is not amended and the general impact is the reduced influence the legislature has on supervising the executive. It is known that this term limits have brought lesser time sharing between the legislator and the constituents (Carey, Niemi, Powell, 2000). The more a member stays in the committee the more expertise he gets, which if put to good use one can develop a strong oversight for the people. All these fly against the reason as to why the people elect a legislator. Arguments by those advocating for reforms want the term limits scraped for the aforementioned reasons.
There is another issue with the term limits proposal. Over the years the democrats and the republicans have grown apart in terms of what they stand for. Debates did originate that had strong public view but with the daily political intricacies, the parties opted to take different views. This does leave the general public fewer options because the person they voted to go represent them is a let down. The legislator fails to take a long view on a matter aligning more with the party position. Party loyalty is of utmost importance in the circles of limited term limits. This is because one could be harboring ambitions of vying for another position when he is barred from reelection (Crane, 1994). This is referred to as party polarization and in the term limits era it is considered negatively. Polarization is of concern to the fact that it doesn’t promote further public deliberations. The decisions that are arrived at later are more of the party position than the majority view.
The inventors of term limits wished to guard against political careerism. However term limits are said not to have reduced this careerism. The game shifted to local people who held offices vying for the seats in the legislature and they largely won. For the political career minded, one had to either start at the city council or any local small offices, rise up to the Assembly, then to the senate from there one could retire or move back to the local offices (Carey, Niemi, Powell, 2000). Thus this policy brought about a situation where a good number of legislatures had served both the houses. The experienced legislators were more often than not overturning decisions by the Assembly. Reason for the overturned bills are that it takes a quite sometime to train up a legislator in the process of writing and passing legislation.
In the assembly the level of experience for both the legislators and the staff is on the decline due top the term limits. The evaluation of committee after the term limits has lessened their value in terms of being the Assembly watchdog. According to Crane (1994), there has been an increased takeover of bills by the Senate. The term limits did affect the top leaders of the Assembly leading to an unstable leadership. Legislature has dropped the number of audits it usually called on executive. This therefore meant that the door of bad monetary policies or economic blunders without some form of regulation had been opened for exploitation.
Finally the issue of the legislative being slow in the manner they get things done. The rise in party polarization meant that it’s easier to agree on a certain issue as a party and quickly take measures to implement it (Crane, 1994). However, in some cases one may find that the governor of a state being a member of a different party than the majority in the legislature. With the different parties having taken stands that are different to the issues, results in a deadlock. This will require members to seek to have a compromise position on the issue something that might sometimes take very long to implement.
Term limits were established to: a).eliminate careerism which some legislatures were keen on and by this causing some sense of entitlement on their part. There was also laxity from spending too many years in the same office. b). there was the need to reduce the wasteful spending habits that did occur when the legislatures were seeking re-election. c). It was viewed that the term limits would seek to cushion the legislators from the electorate enabling them to come up with quality legislation (Cain, Kousser & Public Policy Institute of California, 2004). These proposals have indeed come to fruition. It totally changed the way political careerism is carried out in most instances eliminating it. This has lead to a high number of people who have been able to serve in the legislature.
With the positives it brought, term limits came along with challenges. It was expected that term limits would provide a way in which the ordinary citizen would have a chance to serve his state. This has not been realized with many of those taking the seats being already state legislators. Among another of the things aimed to curb was saving the state, the usage of large amount of cash during the campaigning period. This has also failed to be achieved. The negative effects that it brought alongside, has been turning the legislators to people who were more concerned with the short term goals (Cain, Kousser & Public Policy Institute of California, 2004). Legislators know that they won’t be around for so long anyway so are more focused on how they can help themselves while at it. Overall effect is that the power of legislators has been reduced considerably.
California has however been greatly changed. The cost one uses to get elected has considerably reduced in some cases. This has been achieved when the incumbent’s terms has reached its limit reducing the large machinery and chest of money he would have used to seek reelection. The time that the legislators had to freely drag their feet in developing legislation has been reduced greatly. This is because when one relaxes, having a horizon set goal, time runs out on him and soon the term limit sets in locking him out (Hajnal, Lewis, & Louch, 2002)..
In order to deal well with the time limits one has to find ways to compensate the problems that have arisen, while appreciating the positives that it has brought along. Among the positives is the increase in diversity of the Assembly members (Cain, Kousser & Public Policy Institute of California, 2004). Diversity helps a lot in the Assembly having that different people have different skills. This boosts the legislative and helps in keeping the Assembly relevant to its community.
There is need for more and better handling of the budget in order to provide the electorate with quality serves. The legislature should come up with more refined ways of teaching their new colleagues budget analysis.
When the Proposition 140 passed in 1990 this meant the legislatures had to lay off the staff that had been so much in the system. They also had to develop new ideas that would pay their retired years, look for other careers that they may engage in afterwards, develop new maturity time for their laws, and if they still wanted to be in politics decide which office to vie for in future (Kurtz, 2007). For the law making Assembly the change meant adapting to the idea of having to train new faces often, handling legislatures who lacked experience, and decreased influence on the executive.
There have been many attempts to reduce the tern limits with various amendments being proposed. However most of them have not reached the floor of the house to be debated. California electorate shot down a proposition-93 (Kurtz, 2007). Based on this there is need to improve on what we have as term limit challenges while consolidating the gains.
Preposition 140 that was adopted in 1990 had both positives and negatives. The positives are worth consolidating but it is the unexpected negative effects that we try to deal with. The fact is that the proponents of adoption had not appreciated the magnitude the negative effects would have on the institution itself. These are like the weakening of the legislative arm on its supervisory role to the executive. The inexperienced legislators meant poor laws which encountered challenges and are altered by the upper house. The lack of solution to the problems that the term limits were established to solve, like election overspending and introducing new faces to run for legislative office (Kousser, 2004).
The root cause of the issues that arose was the unforeseen circumstances by which legislators would seek to circumvent the system. This is illustrated by the failure to curb the reelection money the state was loosing in the re election bids (Kurtz, 2007). The lack of good learning measures, which could be quick on bringing the new legislators to speed about the creation of laws. Lacks of review of the Proposition 140 to better enable it address the changing challenges that face it from time to time.
Existing policies haven’t been able to well address the policy, otherwise the Proposition would not be faced with the problems it currently has. Currently the legislative research office has had its stuff move having to recruit new ones. In the case of term limits and political careerism let’s explore it further. Research that has been carried out on the legislators in various states and mostly California has established their intent on vying for another office after their term ends. They were not so fast at the idea of retiring from politics. Newer faces have not been elected by the provision of term limits. The proponents of the term limits had not envisioned their plans would be taken and turned into opportunities by the politicians (Kousser, 2004). As it stands this policy has become an opportunity for politicians to not only go through one but many offices. There was the idea that term limits would increase diversity to the elected legislatures. However apart from other minorities whose numbers slightly increased, women have not taken up the challenge. This has been due to failure to clinch their party’s nomination ticket in order to vie for the posts.
Term limits policies effect on spending behaviors. On the surface level the level of spending has considerably by appearance seemed to have gone down. However when one has not yet attained the term limit end the spending culture seems to still remain strong. In regards to the idea that term limits would encourage free thinking, the opposite became true. The maturity time for the laws to be passed or drafted by a legislator has been shortened. This creates some sort of a rush for one to be able to pass some bills before the time runs out (Kurtz, 2007). Since the legislator would still want to go vie for another office there is need to have a record of what he has been able to do. The other angle to it is that the current policies have weakened the roles of committees and leaders of parties.
Some recommended policy change has been issued. The new legislators need to be taken for training when they get elected. This should be to cater for the long time lag it takes before a law maker settles down in his new role. Also to try and curb the poor law quality that the new legislators come up with that gets rejected by the upper house. The budget process is another field that is being proposed to be checked more by the house. The fact that the legislators don’t spend enough time scrutinizing the budget means that they are leaving the executive without being well supervised (Doron & Harris, 2001). A lot of input needs to be put by the law makers on the budget with much emphasis on the issues that are more important on the electorate. Changing and adjusting the way the new legislators deal with budgetary issues will bring back the supervisory role usurped by the ending of the term limits. Policy proposal of modification of the term limits is also in the offing. In some states one is limited to vying for a certain seat for consecutive times while in other states it’s a life ban. Some of the term limits need to be changed in a way that the negative values brought about by the term limits is minimized.
Proposition 45 was another policy that has been suggested by the California electorate. This proposition stated that the legislators by collecting signatures of a certain amount could then proceed to serve an extra four more years. This is in addition to their end of the term they are allowed to serve (Cain, Kousser & Public Policy Institute of California, 2004). This proposition was however defeated at the ballot and the drafters did come up with another that was directed at reducing the service years to 12. The advantage though was that one was allowed to serve this term in one house.
Proposition 56 tried to lower the requirement that states that for the budget to pass it has to be supported by a two thirds majority. This would in a way have helped reduce the dead lock between parties that comes up when the executive and the legislature are from two different parties. If the governor is a democrat and the legislature has a majority of republicans that is headed for a possible deadlock (Cain, Kousser & Public Policy Institute of California, 2004). This proposition would be handy since party polarization has been on the rise. However it was defeated and the two thirds rule remained the norm.
Proposition 77 of the California stated the need to redistrict the entire state. This was seen as a solution to offer the decline of squabbles in the Assembly. However this is a delicate process that needs very neutral players to solve. Research has found out that the democrats and republicans do live in close proximity to each other. This implies that the district demarcation isn’t the only thing that determines the electing of a person. There was proposed a commission that is not partisan to carry out this redistricting. It’s yet to be known how this proposition will go moving forward (Kurtz, 2007).
Some of the proposed policies might help in saving the issues raised by the term limit problem. The cost of redistricting is quite high and there is a chance that it may or may not achieve the intended purpose. The lowering of the budgetary requirement from two thirds proposition would have been quite effective. It would have lead to the reduction in the need for party polarization. Another proposition stated the increment of term limit through collection of signatures, could have increased expertise in the house (Crane, 1994).
I am of the proposal that there need to be a law passed that limits the campaign money. There should be an audit of the money that comes from public fund raising initiatives. This would act to reduce the effect the lobby groups have on the election of a legislator (Cain, Kousser, & Public Policy Institute of California, 2004). This would then curb the amount of money the state does loose in the election period. This policy change would be very effective as the ground would be level for everyone the independent candidates. This can be implemented through an act which may be difficult to pass considering the influence the lobby groups wield.
Another recommendation is for there to be an open primary process in the selection of candidates to vie in a party ticket. The refusal to offer open primaries does work in restricting the women candidates the chance to get party ticket. One of the aims of the term limits is to try and promote diversity in the Assembly. This has been an elusive thing since research has shown that most of the candidates that get elected do work for state offices. This means that independent candidates are not on the rise. Open primaries will help increase diversity in the Assembly and Senate making it very effective (Kurtz, 2007). This is a proposal that should be quite easy to implement considering the fact that it appeals to both parties.
I do propose that a candidate should be allowed to be able to participate in different parties primaries. This will improve the success rate of the best person not being locked out. The other thing that this proposal would help improve is the reduction of party squabbling (Cain, Kousser, & Public Policy Institute of California, 2004). The lowering of the party temperature would be an added value in the making of excellent legislators. Legislators would in turn develop positions and arguments that champion the needs of their electorate and not just follow the party position. Its effectiveness is up for debate and it’s quite a hard thing to implement.
There is the need to develop more training on the role of the legislature towards the executive in terms of oversight roles. In terms of budgetary procedures there is need to establish cooperation between the senate and Assembly. This cooperation will help iron out targeted areas of funding that they both could agree on, limiting the issues of refusals by the senate of the Assemblies. The issues that they both shall work on and come to an agreement should be respected and protected (Kurtz, 2007). This system should be worked on under specific rules and once a smooth process it will be a major breakthrough. The effectiveness of this proposal is high if adopted and is very easy to implement.
The initiators of the term limit idea wanted to curb some of the vices they saw unlimited terms brought. Some of them are like political careerism which made it look like some positions belong to certain individuals. The roof top spending during the campaign period was of major concern. The government did loose funds during this period. Diversity is also another goal that the term limits did seek to bring into the Assembly. However the term limit was not able to solve all these challenges and instead brought about: half baked legislations, one person adherence to party position among other challenges. The way to solve this is by appreciating the positives and negatives and developing measures to reduce the negative impacts of term limits. Some of the proposals that need to be implemented will go a long way in perfecting the term limits making it a close to perfect system.

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