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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | chapter wide

Vote YES on Prop 93 on February 5

January 2008

Sierra Club California has endorsed Proposition 93, the Term Limits and Legislative Reform Act, on the Tuesday, February 5, ballot.

Prop 93 would allow a legislator to serve up to 12 years in the Senate, the Assembly, or a combination of both. CaliforniaÕs current term limit allows 14 years, but these must be divided into a maximum of six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate.

Experience: Legislators need time in Sacramento to learn about environmental issues and the LegislatureÕs sometimes arcane rules. Today, in the Assembly especially, even committee chairs and top leadership have limited experience. Often they are appointed after only two years in Sacramento; sometimes even brand-new legislators are appointed. Prop 93 will give lawmakers more time to gain the essential experience and expertise to deal with complicated environmental issues with long-term consequences.

Lobbyists: With less turnover of members, there will be fewer novice legislators most vulnerable to industry lobbyistsÕ false arguments. Consider the history of global-warming legislation. In 2002, first-term Assemblymember Fran Pavley authored CaliforniaÕs first important global-warming law, the clean-cars bill. In 2006, in her final term, Pavley authored her landmark AB 32, but only a small minority of the assemblymembers serving then had been in the legislature in 2002. This year, when Assemblymember Ruskin's clean-car-discount bill, AB 493, lost on the floor, not a single member had been in the Assembly in 2002, and many members bought some of the same bogus arguments the auto industry had made in 2002.

Oversight: Committees chaired by experienced lawmakers will be better able to oversee state agencies and bureaucrats. With more time to serve in one house, legislators can gain knowledge of the inner workings of agencies. We need lawmakers with the institutional memory to follow the implementation of environmental laws by State agencies. Consider again AB 32. Like many bills, this law requires state agencies to undertake a complex process of decisions on how to carry it out. Largely due to todayÕs term limits, Fran Pavley is no longer in the Legislature to help watch over the implementation of her landmark bill.

Money: Under the current limits, once members are elected to the Assembly and go to Sacramento, they immediately start to eye their next elective office. With the possibility of 12-year terms in the Assembly, lawmakers will feel less pressure to raise money, and have less reliance on special interests. They will be able to devote more time to governing and policy-making. Prop 93 could also slow the revolving door that sends many former members into lobbying jobsÑusually for industryÑ since public-interest jobs mean a big pay cut.

The Sierra Club urges you to vote YES on Prop 93.


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