California Term Limits, Proposition 140 (1990)
Proposition 140 limited the number of terms that California state senators and representatives can stay in office. Members of the California State Assembly were limited by its provisions to three two-year terms and members of the California State Senate to two four-year terms. It also imposed a lifelong ban against seeking the same office once the limits were reached.
Proposition 140 also:
- Stopped the practice of state legislators earning state retirement benefits from their service in the state legislature.
- Limited the total amount of the California State Legislature's expenditures on staff salaries and operating expenses.
- See also: State legislatures with term limits
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Proposition 140 added or altered nine different sections in six different articles of the California Constitution:
- It added Section 1.5 to Article IV.
- It amended Section 2 of Article IV.
- It added Section 4.5 to Article IV.
- It added Section 7.5 to Article IV.
- It amended Section 11 of Article V.
- It amended Section 2 of Article IX.
- It amended Section 17 of Article XIII.
- It added Section 7 to Article XX.
- It added Section 11(d) to Article VII.
Text of measure
The ballot title was:
The official summary said:
- Persons elected or appointed after November 5, 1990, holding offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Controller, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Board of Equalization members, and State Senators, limited to two terms; members of the Assembly limited to three terms.
- Requires legislators elected or serving after November 1, 1990, to participate in federal Social Security program; precludes accrual of other pension and retirement benefits resulting from legislative service, except vested rights.
- Limits expenditures of Legislature for compensation and operating costs and equipment, to specified amount.
- See also: Fiscal impact statement
The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:
- The limitation on terms will have no fiscal effect.
- The restrictions on the legislative retirement benefits would reduce state costs by approximately $750,000 a year.
- To the extent that future legislators do not participate in the federal Social Security system, there would be unknown future savings to the state.
- Legislative expenditures in 1991-92 would be reduced by about 38 percent, or $70 million.
- In subsequent years, the measure would limit growth in these expenditures to the changes in the state's appropriations limit.
The official voter guide arguments in favor of Proposition 140 were signed by:
- Peter F. Schabarum
- Lewis K. Uhler of the National Tax Limitation Committee
- J.G. Ford, Jr.
- W. Bruce Lee, II of the California Business League
- Lee A. Phelps of the Alliance of California Taxpayers
- Art Pagdan, MD, of the National 1st VP, Filipino-American Political Association
Arguments in favor
Supporters of Proposition 140 made these arguments in its favor in the state's official voter guide:
- "It will reform a political systems that has created a legislature of career politicians...a system that has given a tiny elite almost limitless power over the lives of California's taxpayers and consumers."
- It will "save taxpayers $60 million" in its first year alone by reducing the amount that state legislators are allowed to spend on their office expenses.
- It will "end extravagant pensions for legislators...the legislative pension system often pays more than the legislator received while in office."
- It will create more competitive elections.
- It will "remove the grip that vested interests have over the legislature."
- It will "put an end to the Sacramento web of special favors and patronage."
The official voter guide arguments opposing Proposition 140 were signed by:
- Dr. Regene L. Mitchell, president, Consumer Federation of California
- Lucy Blake, executive director, California League of Conservation Voters
- Dan Terry, president, California Professional Firefighters
- Ed Foglia, president, California Teachers Association
- Linda M. Tangren, state chair, California National Women's Political Caucus
The arguments presented in the official voter guide opposing Proposition 140 were:
- It "limits our voting rights."
- It "takes away the cherished constitutional right to freely cast a ballot for candidates of our choice."
- The lifetime ban in it is not good public policy.
- It is unfair because it treats all elected officials the same, regardless of their level of competence or the causes they are fighting for.
- The changes it proposes to the pension system for state legislators hurts regular people who want to run for state legislature, not wealthy people who don't have to worry about their retirement.
- It forces "our representatives to become even more dependent on entrenched bureaucrats and shrewd lobbyists."
Bates v. Jones
In the case of Bates v. Jones, former California Assemblyman Tom Bates and several of his constituents filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California seeking to have the court determine that the lifetime term limits in Proposition 140 violated their federal constitutional rights.
District Court Judge Claudia Wilken upheld the claim of Bates and enjoined California Secretary of State Bill Jones from enforcing the provisions of Proposition 140. In Wilken's ruling, she agrees with the view of the plaintiffs that the voters were unaware that they were imposing a lifetime ban once the limits had been reached.
The National Tax Limitation Committee and Bill Jones appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. At the Ninth Circuit, a three-judge panel heard the appeal. Two of them upheld Wilken's ruling. At that time, a majority of the active judges of the Ninth Circuit vote to rehear the case. When the case was re-heard before the full circuit, Wilken's earlier verdict was overturned and the law went into effect.
- California Proposition 93 (2008)
- California Proposition 45 (2002)
- Term limits, California
- Term limits in the United States
- U.S. Term Limits
- History of California initiatives
- PDF of the November 6, 1990 ballot proposition voter guide (Propositions 124-140)
- "Defining Democracy Down", Patrick Basham for the Cato Institute, September 20, 2003
- Mercury News, "Many backers of strict term limits now regret it, saying they only made things worse," August 2, 2010
- November 6, 1990 California general election Statement of Vote
- Prop 45: turning California term limits - Case Study Campaigns & Elections, June, 2002
- Court voids California term limits Washington Post, October 8, 1997
- Text of Bates v. Jones
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