May 03, 2007

"Suit battles term limit ballot details"

The Sacramento Bee offers this report on a legal battle over the title and summary for a California term limits initiative. I'm not involved in this suit, but I've been involved in other struggles over the title and summary prepared by the attorney general, and it could get very political. The issue here mirrors an issue that occurred in Los Angeles with Measure R. Both measures eased term limits, but easing term limits is something voters don't really like. So the Measure R language was phrased in terms of "chang[ing] Councilmember term limits to three terms" (without revealing that it was an increase from two terms). Similarly, the title and summary for the California term limits initiative says that it "Reduces the total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years." But it does not reveal that, contrary to prior law, it would allow someone to serve all the time in a single house of the legislature.

Given my experience with these issues in the past, I believe that preparing such a title and summary should be taken out of the hands of partisan political officials like the attorney general and kept in the hands of a nonpartisan agency, such as California's Legislative Analyst's Office.

Posted by Rick Hasen at May 3, 2007 08:22 AM