Thursday, May 17, 2012


Propositions 28 and 29

These are the numbers of two initiative propositions that will be on the ballot in June here in California.  I don't like either of them and, if the election were held today, I would vote against both of them.

Proposition 28 is a change in the term limits law that at present limits the terms of office of State officials and State senators to eight years, or two election cycles.  Terms of members of the Assembly (lower House) are limited to six years or three election cycles.  Once you've served your limit in any of these offices, you are barred from ever again serving in the same office.  You can move from office to office, serving the limit in each office.  The stated intent of the supporters of term limits is to discourage the creation of a class of  "professional politicians."  Instead, our laws should be enacted and enforced by "citizen legislators" who serve a limited time in elected office and then return to their regular careers.  The effect is to provide the State with a lower house legislature of inexperienced, enthusiastic, incompetent zealots.  After six years, the members have gained some experience and have begun to understand that politics is the art of compromise, the art of getting things done.  Many of the graduates from the Assembly then move to the Senate, where they have eight years to get something done.

The change would affect the terms of members of the State legislature.  Regardless of which house, Senate or Assembly, a member would have a total of twelve years.  All twelve years could be spent in either house.  (I assume the twelve years could be divided between the two.)  At present, a member can spend a total of fourteen years, six in the Assembly and eight in the Senate.  To me that is a reduction of two years: fourteen to twelve.  Surprisingly, supporters of term limits present the argument that this change would be an expansion of term limits: six years in the Assembly or eight years in the Senate to twelve in one of the two. My own position on term limits is that I don't like them.  The change that I would vote for is the elimination of all term limits on elected officials.  I certainly will not vote for this fooling around with a bad law that ought to be abolished.

Proposition 29 is an attempt to do budgeting at the ballot box.  The proposal is to impose an additional tax on cigarettes.  The money from this tax would be used to fund cancer research.  Now, I have nothing agains spending money on cancer research.  I think that cancer research is a rewarding study.  Cancer is an important cause of death and anything that can be done to cure or eliminate various kinds of cancer should be done with efficiency and generosity.  The State should fund such research.  The State should allocate money from the general fund to pay for the research.  That would be a very useful thing for the State to do.  Why doesn't the State do it?  The reason is that the State has a structural deficit.  That is, existing laws prevent the State from taking in enough revenue to pay for all the useful services the State should do.  Rather than trying to bypass the apparatus of the State with a special tax, I would rather vote for a proposition that would enable the State legislature to establish tax rates by a simple majority vote.

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