Redistricting Reform Not Longer Terms Is the Answer

When Proposition 93 which would have extended terms for sitting lawmakers went down in flames taxpayers breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Backers including Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez — whose opulent lifestyle may have put the final nail in Proposition 93’s coffin — argued with a straight face that lawmakers needed up to an additional six years in office to learn their jobs. Even Gov. Schwarzenegger echoed these remarks although he also admitted that much of his support for Proposition 93 was based on his friendship with current legislators — destroying once and for all his self-proclaimed status as a government "outsider."

Voters saw through the charade and by rejecting Proposition 93 chose to hit the eject button for the lawmakers who oversaw the lavish spending that has resulted in a $14.5 billion budget deficit. Just exactly what would Fabian Nunez learn with more time in office? How to double the deficit?

Still as some have pointed out the benefits of the existing term limit law established by voters with Proposition 140 in 1990 are offset in part by the fact that in every election cycle a few responsible lawmakers are forced to retire along with those who seek public office for self-serving purposes.

It is only fair to mention that the biggest loss in this election cycle will be Senator Tom McClintock who through thick and thin has stood with taxpayers. Fortunately it is highly unlikely that California will be without his services for long. McClintock is a man of principle who believes in service and self-sacrifice for the greater good. He will continue to be a strong advocate for taxpayers whether in another political office or from a position in the private sector.

However for every Tom McClintock in the Legislature there are a dozen like Fabian Nunez whose singular skill has been to establish for himself the lavish lifestyle of a potentate. For every Jim Battin — another good vote for taxpayers — leaving office there are a dozen like Sally Lieber whose claim to fame is the introduction of a bill to ban the spanking of children. For every taxpayer defender like Sharon Runner there are a dozen like Lloyd Levine who while the Legislature was spending the state into perilous debt obsessed on passing a statewide spay-and-neuter law.

Real reform of the Legislature will not come from rewarding incompetence with longer terms in office. The only chance of upgrading the overall quality of our state representatives and making them more accountable to their constituents is through redistricting reform that bars politicians from choosing their own voters. Making districts more competitive will force candidates to actively listen to the concerns of the folks who send them to Sacramento.

By defeating Proposition 93 voters may have chased the would-be career politicians out of Sacramento with their tails between their legs but the damage these lawmakers have wrought by their massive overspending remains behind for taxpayers to deal with. With or without reapportionment reform it is incumbent upon taxpayers to choose wisely the next generation of lawmakers. If they let us down as well it is we not them who will literally pay for the consequences.

Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.