Commentary: A fight for power in Sacramento tests boundaries of campaign finance law
Assembly Bill 1478 would have put term limits on California’s statewide elected offices. If it had become law, it would have significantly restricted the political activity of state lawmakers who may now easily find themselves under attack from their colleagues.
The measure has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans, and by organizations that represent members of both parties. The Sacramento Bee editorial board noted that the “law is flawed and has no place in California, where elected leaders are answerable to only the people they represent.”
But it has also been criticized by the California League of Savings and Loans, which has filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission over whether the state has followed the law.
On the side of the Legislature — in the form of Democratic state senators Michael Rubio, Carl DeMaio, and Kevin de León, and Republican Assemblymen John Cox and Rob Bonta — is a grassroots organization called the California Fair Elections Coalition (CAL Fair). Led by Senate minority leader Kevin de León, the coalition has fought in federal and state courts seeking to have the bill thrown out.
In mid-September, an appeals court heard oral arguments in the case, with a decision expected in about two months. This would give members of both parties in Sacramento a chance to persuade the court to approve the ban on term limits. It could also prove difficult for the court to resolve the constitutional questions surrounding term limits at all.
On the other side of the Capitol, in the form of the Republican state senators, Assemblyman Tony Mendoza and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, and Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting, are the California Public Policy Institute, which submitted an amicus brief to the court arguing that term limits are good for California’s voters because they reduce turnover in public office.
The public policy institute has joined in CAL Fair’s legal challenge after it concluded that the bill would have significantly restricted the political activity of politicians, preventing them from running for office for up to four years after leaving office and effectively barring them from running for office without changing their party affiliation. As a result, it said, term limits will have a