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California Proposition 93, Amendment to Term Limits Law (February 2008)

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California Proposition 93, also known as the Term Limits and Legislative Reform Act, was on the February 5, 2008 statewide primary election ballot in California as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was defeated.

If Proposition 93 had passed, members of the California State Legislature would have been allowed to remain in their current office up to 12 years. That period was longer than under existing state term limits laws for one legislative house, but two years shorter than the total lawfully allowable time in the Legislature. California lawmakers can serve 3 terms in the California State Assembly and two terms in the California State Senate for a total of 14 years. Proposition 93 sought to allow them to spend only 12 years total in office, but all in one chamber had they so chosen (and been elected).

Proposition 93 was one of seven ballot measures (along with party presidential primary contests) that California voters decided on February 5, 2008.

U.S. Term Limits opposed Proposition 93 because it lengthened the time current legislative incumbents could serve. Current legislative incumbents were the primary sponsors of Proposition 93.

Election results

Proposition 93
Defeatedd No4,574,82653.6%
Yes 3,961,466 46.4%

History of California term limits

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California voters imposed strict term limits on the California Legislature in 1990, when they voted in favor of Proposition 140 by a margin of 52-48%. Proposition 140 limits state Assembly members to three two-year terms and state senators to two four-year terms, and imposes a lifelong ban against seeking the same office once the limits have been reached. Proposition 140 still governs how long members of the California State Assembly and California State Senate can stay in office, although there have been repeated attempts to rollback, soften or have Prop 140 declared unconstitutional.

Bates v. Jones

In the case of Bates v. Jones, Bates--a termed-out Assemblyman--sued in federal court to have the provisions of Proposition 140 declared unconstitutional. A federal court agreed with his claim, before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against him, keeping the limits in place.

Proposition 45 in 2002

California State Senate president pro tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) vigorously sponsored an effort in 2002 to rollback the provisions of 1990's Proposition 140 by putting Proposition 45 on the March 2002 ballot. Voters rejected Proposition 45 by a margin of 42-58%. Had Proposition 45 passed, it would have allowed state legislators to serve for four years beyond the limits allowed by Proposition 140.

Constitutional changes

If Proposition 93 had been approved, it would have:

Text of measure


The ballot title was:

Limits on Legislators' Terms in Office. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.


Proposition 93 2008.PNG

The official summary provided to describe Proposition 93 said:

  • Reduces the total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years.
  • Allows a person to serve a total of 12 years either in the Assembly, the Senate, or a combination of both.
  • 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.

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

  • "This measure would have no direct fiscal effect on state or local governments."



The official voter guide arguments in favor of Proposition 93 were signed by:

  • Betty Jo Toccoli, president, California Small Business Association
  • Richard Riordan, Former California Education Secretary
  • Susan Smartt, executive director, California League of Conservation Voters
  • Liane M. Randolph, former chairman, California Fair Political Practices Commission
  • Rick Mattos, president, California Association of Highway Patrolmen
  • Elizabeth M. Perry, Public Policy Director, Older Women’s League of California[1]

California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and California State Senate President Don Perata were two key political backers of the measure. With Proposition 93's defeat, both had to leave office.

Gov. Schwarzenegger endorsed Proposition 93, saying voters went "too far" with term limits in the past.[2] He also argued that if the redistricting initiative passes and new limits were placed on political funding, the term limits extension wouldn't be necessary.[3]

Arguments in favor

Supporters of Proposition 93 made these arguments in its favor in the state's official voter guide:

  • "Proposition 93 reforms California’s 17-year-old term limits law to make the Legislature more effective. This thoughtful 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."
  • "[It's] simple but important adjustments [to the existing law] will let legislators spend more time working for taxpayers, and less time worrying about which office to run for next."
  • "An independent study by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found that term limits have produced important benefits, but 'have been accompanied by unintended consequences [that] diminish the Legislature’s capacity to perform its basic duties.' The study found term limits increased the potential for 'fiscal irresponsibility' in the Legislature, while providing 'less incentive, experience, and leadership to correct it.' Rapid turnover in the Legislature has also reduced 'expertise in many important policy areas.'"
  • "Allowing legislators to serve 12 years in either the State Assembly or State Senate will let them gain experience and expertise—essential for dealing with complicated public policy issues with long-term consequences. Committees will be led by experienced lawmakers who can better oversee state bureaucrats. And more legislators will focus on California’s long-term needs, instead of their own short-term careers."[1]


$16,840,223 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "yes" vote on Proposition 93.[4]

Donors of $150,000 or more were:

Donor Amount
California State Council of Service Employees $2,227,646
California Teachers Association $1,750,100
Committee to Protect California's Future $1,145,000
AFSCME $800,000
SEIU $800,000
California Democratic Party $575,219
PHRMA $500,000
California Hospital Association $350,000
Professional Engineers in California Government $250,000
California Dental Association $250,000
AT&T $250,000
Los Angeles Casinos PAC $250,000
Girardi and Keese $225,000
Mercury General Corp. $200,000
Southern California Edison $175,000
Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy $162,500
Zenith Insurance $150,000
Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters $150,000

The San Diego Union-Tribune editorialized on December 24, 2007 that Gov. Schwarzenegger and Fabian Nuñez rounded up union support for a health care bill in the state by giving unions "huge, unscrutinized concessions" in exchange for donations from SEIU and AFSCME to the pro-Prop 93 camp totalling $1.7 million.[5]

See also: Large donors supporting California Proposition 93



California State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced in early November 2007 that he would lead the charge against Proposition 93. Poizner said that Proposition 93 is a "naked power grab" by legislative incumbents.[6][7]

The official voter guide arguments opposing Proposition 93 were signed by:

At least 26 GOP legislators publicly opposed Proposition 93, including former Gov. Pete Wilson.[8]

The powerful California Chamber of Commerce voted in mid-December to oppose Proposition 93.[9]

Arguments against

Opponents of Proposition 93 made these arguments against it in the state's official voter guide:

  • "Proposition 93 is a scam that would actually lengthen politicians’ terms in office. It is intentionally deceptive because it claims to toughen term limits when it would in fact cripple term limits."
  • "It’s written by career politicians and funded by millions of dollars from special interests with business before the Legislature."
  • "Proposition 93 has a special loophole that benefits 42 incumbent politicians who are termed out by giving them more time in office. Some politicians will even be able to serve up to 20 years in office—just like before we passed term limits."
  • "Proposition 93 will dramatically increase terms for more than 80% of state legislators. Politicians will have more time to develop cozy relationships with lobbyists."
  • "Proposition 93 sets back the clock and limits opportunities for more women and minorities to be elected to the Legislature."[1]


$8,958,926 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "no" vote on Proposition 93.[10]

Donors of $100,000 or more were:

Donor Amount
Poizner Family Trust $2,300,000
California Correctional Peace Officers Association $2,000,000
U.S. Term Limits $1,500,000
William E. Bloomfield, Jr. $350,000
Charles Munger, Jr. $150,000
Brian Harvey $100,000
Reed Hastings $99,228
See also: Large donors opposing California Proposition 93

Campaign tactics

Proposition 93 opponents toured the state with a Trojan Horse[11]

The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center and the California League of Conservation Voters sent a letter to the "No on 93" campaign demanding that donors from U.S. Term Limits be revealed, and asserting that in their view, Howie Rich was behind the opposition to Proposition 93. According to an article in Capital Weekly the "focus on Rich marks a tactical change in the fight over Proposition 93. Proponents are hoping that voters will support the measure when they learn who the initiative’s opponents are."[12]

The change from focusing on the issue to focusing on campaign finance was attributed to the lackluster support of the California Democratic Party with nearly half of the E-board voting to stay neutral on the topic.

At the same time, opponents of Proposition 93 focused on recent scandals about the two main sponsors of Proposition 93: California House speaker Fabian Nunez[13][14] and state Senate president Don Perata.[15][16]

Public opinion polling

See also Polls, 2008 ballot measures.

A poll released in January 2008 by Field Poll showed that support for Proposition 93 had declined from 59 percent in favor in October 2007 to 39 percent in favor by mid-January 2008. The same poll showed that 2/3 of likely votes had heard of Proposition 93 by mid-January, while in December 2007, only 25% of likely voters were aware of the measure.[17]

Date of Poll In favor Opposed Undecided
August 2007 59% 30% 11%
October 2007 49% 31% 20%
December 2007 50% 32% 18%
January 2008 39% 39% 22%
February 2008[18] 33% 46% 21%
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Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo theorized that support for the measure weakened because "...the target audience of the (measure's) backers has backed off a bit. They are a little less convinced about the ballot measure."[19]

According to "No on 93" spokesman Kevin Spillane, support for 93 was highest when poll respondents were read the ballot title for the measure, and lowest when they were told that current legislative incumbents were the main advocates of Proposition 93. Spillane also said that the ballot title given to Proposition 93 by California Attorney General Jerry Brown amounted to "a political contribution worth several million dollars."[20]

In February there was a sharp drop in polls as Republican's oppose the measure 2-1 or 56 percent to 27 percent. The drop of support from the Republicans for the initiative came when it was cast as a partisan scam to keep Democrats in power.[21]

Editorial opinion

"Yes on 93"

  • The Los Angeles Times encouraged its readers to endorse Proposition 93, saying, "The term-limits measure would reward a few lawmakers now, but it's right for the state's future."[22]
  • The San Francisco Bay Guardian supported Proposition 93, saying, "It's a bit better than what we have now — it might bring more long-term focus to the legislature and eliminate some of the musical-chairs mess that's brought us the Mark Leno versus Carole Migden bloodbath."[23]
  • The Pasadena Star News supported Proposition 93.[24]
  • The Monterey County Herald urged a "yes" vote on Proposition 93, arguing that "suddenly removing dozens of veteran legislators will do nothing at all to solve the many large and complicated issues on the legislative agenda."[25]

"No on 93"

  • The Long Beach Press-Telegram urged its readers to vote "no" on Proposition 93, saying, "Two of the termed-out politicians chiefly responsible for the fiscal 911 call California made recently in hopes of rescuing its drowning budget want a chance to stay in office six years longer than voters intended."[26]
  • The San Jose Mercury News opposed to Proposition 93.[27]
  • The Fresno Bee opposed Proposition 93.[28]
  • The Tracy Press urged a "no" vote on Proposition 93, calling it "an ugly attempt at term limits 'reform'"[29]
  • The San Francisco Chronicle urged a "no" vote on Proposition 93, saying it is "the people in power taking care of themselves."[30]
  • The Redding Record Searchlight opposed to Proposition 93, saying that it "a self-serving scheme" by legislative incumbents.[31]
  • The North Country Times, while saying that it generally opposed term limits, argued that Proposition 93 is not the reform they believe is needed, and urged their readers to reject it.[32]
  • The Los Angeles Daily News opined that Gov. Schwarzenegger's change-of-heart on Proposition 93 is illogical, "feeble," and a "a blatant case of flip-flopping and dishonesty on the governor's part."[33]
  • The Modesto Bee was against Proposition 93, saying that the "state government is rigidly partisan and increasingly ineffective."[34]
  • The Record Net was against Proposition 93, saying it is "just a disingenuous gambit by some of the state's most powerful elected officials to retain control and extend their longevity."[35]
  • The Ventura County Star opposed Proposition 93, saying that even though they don't like term limits, "Proposition 93 isn't a bad idea, until voters sniff out how self-serving it really is. Then it smells so bad, even plugging your nose doesn't eliminate the stench."[36]

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements

As an initiated constitutional amendment, 694,354 signatures were required to qualify Proposition 93 for the ballot.

The signatures were collected by Kimball Petition Management at a cost of $2,238,537.89.[37]

See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs

See also

External links

Suggest a link

Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Arguments for and against Proposition 93
  2. Governor supports term limits measure in The Sacramento Bee, Jan. 15, 2008
  3. Reform term limits in the Los Angeles Times, Jan. 15, 2008
  4. Follow the Money, "Donors to Yes on 93"
  5. Desperation time: Governor will do anything to enact health bill
  6. Steve Poizner takes on phony term-limit initiative
  7. With Poizner's Checkbook, the term limits battle is joined
  8. Term limits initiative has created a partisan divide, San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 3, 2008
  9. Cal Chamber: No on Prop 93 (dead link)
  10. Follow the Money, "Donors to No on 93"
  11. Trojan horse' battles Proposition 93, Chico-Enterprise Record, Jan. 17, 2008
  12. Campaign group demands answers from Poizner, Capital Weekly, Nov. 29, 2007
  13. Nuñez used a charity to funnel donations
  14. "Lavishgate" - the Fabian Nunez Scandal
  15. Probe of Perata quiet but very much alive
  16. More special-interest stink
  17. Field Poll January 24, 2008
  18. Support for Proposition 93 dives, San Jose Mercury News, Feb. 4, 2008
  19. Voters less enthusiastic about changing term limits, SFGate, Oct 31, 2007
  20. Capitol Weekly, "Inside the term limits chess match," January 17, 2008
  21. Support for Proposition 93 dives, San Jose Mercury News, Feb. 4, 2008
  22. Yes on Proposition 93 January 21, 2008, Los Angeles Times
  23. San Francisco Bay Guardian, "Proposition 93 (term limits) Yes"
  24. Keep leaders in office Pasadena Star News, January 17, 2008
  25. Monterey County Herald, "Yes on Proposition 93," January 27, 2008
  26. No on Proposition 93 Press-Telegram, Long Beach, California, January 3, 2008
  27. San Jose Mercury News, "Proposition 93 isn't the fix we need; Term-limit law would reward double-dealing by incumbents," December 2, 2007
  28. Fresno Bee, "Voters should reject Proposition 93 Measure isn't what it pretends to be -- a reform of term limits," December 2, 2007
  29. Tracy Press, "The Press recommends a no vote on Proposition 93, an ugly attempt at term limits "reform.," January 10, 2008
  30. San Francisco Chronicle, "Corruption of a good idea," January 15, 2008
  31. Redding Record-Searchlight, "Proposition 93 primarily helps the incumbents," January 19, 2008
  32. North County Times, "We endorse...," January 19, 2008
  33. Los Angeles Daily News, "Schwarzenegger flip-flops on Proposition 93," January 15, 2008
  34. No on 93 -- unless you think the Legislature's doing well Modesto Bee, January 13, 2008
  35. Record.Net, "Proposition 93: Term limits shift too shifty," January 28, 2008
  36. Ventura County Star, "Proposition 93: No; Self-serving aspect reeks," January 27, 2008
  37. "Yes on 93" expenditure details