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California Proposition 131, Ethics, Term Limits and Campaign Finance Act (1990)

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California Proposition 131, also known as the Limits on Terms of Office, Ethics, Campaign Financing Act, was on the November 6, 1990 ballot in California as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was defeated.

Proposition 131, if it had passed, would have set limits on the number of consecutive terms that an elected state official could serve in office; placed restrictions on the conduct of elected officials, candidates, and staff; changed existing campaign finance laws; and allowed candidates for state office to receive public funds if they agree to comply with limits on campaign spending.

Ralph Nader was a leading proponent of Proposition 131. It was viewed as competing with Proposition 140, which was on the same ballot and which won.

Election results

Proposition 131
Defeatedd No4,490,97362.25%
Yes 2,723,763 37.75%

Constitutional changes

If Proposition 131 had passed, it would have amended these parts of the California Constitution:

Ballot summary

The ballot summary said:

  • Limits elected statewide officials to eight successive years in office; state legislators, Board of Equalization members to twelve successive years.
  • Limits gifts to elected state, local officials.
  • Enlarges conflict of interest prohibitions, remedies applicable to state, local government officials.
  • Prohibits use of public resources for personal or campaign purposes.
  • Authorizes special prosecutors.
  • Establishes campaign contribution limits for elective offices.
  • Provides partial public campaign financing for candidates to state office who agree to specified campaign expenditure limits.
  • Substantially repeals campaign ballot measures, Proposition 68 and Proposition 73, enacted June, 1988.

Fiscal impact

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

  • Unknown level of state revenues, possibly $12 million in 1990-91 and uncertain amounts thereafter, to be generated from state income tax check-off provisions for campaign financing; corresponding unknown revenue loss to state General Fund.
  • Annual General Fund contributions of $5 million for campaign matching payments beginning January 1, 1992, amounts to increase in subsequent years.
  • Unknown amount of state matching payments likely to be requested under measure for campaign financing by candidates for state office.
  • State General Fund administrative costs of approximately $1.5 million in 1990-91, $3 million annually for subsequent years.

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