You’re doing a great job and you’re fired

As discussed in the opening blog post to this series, term limits have a big impact on our efforts to educate California legislators through I&E Days and District Days.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like them, and I don’t, here’s why:

Reason #1 – I see no reason why someone who is good at their job has to give it up after a certain amount of time.  How many of you have been in your job for more than six years?  If you were an Assembly Member you would now have to look for a new job.  This is what elections are for; if your elected official is not doing a good job, stop voting for them.

Reason #2 – I worked for a Member of Congress who served in the House of Representatives for 28 years and saw firsthand the impact that his institutional knowledge, long years of service and commitment to his constituents (three things that are minimized with term limits) had on the political and legislative process.  Simply put, his years of service helped him craft laws that would have been worse off crafted by someone that was new to the job.

Reason #3 – Term limits do not solve the problem they are designed to solve and now I have a study that backs me up.  Politicians do not stop being politicians and this is demonstrated by the term limit experience in California.  Lawmakers that are termed out of one office simply end up running for or being appointed to another office.  Check out the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, six of the seven members are legislators who were termed out.  Legislators today are just as likely to be elected to other offices or get another government job as they were before term limits.  And now we have legislators with less experience and knowledge about policy making trying to solve the major issues facing our state.

Whether you like term limits or not, they are the reality in our state and we all need to step up and educate our ever-changing legislators on tobacco control issues.  Sign up for District Days today and be part of a coordinated effort around the state to educate legislators about tobacco control during the week of October 17-21.

–Justin Garrett

Moderator’s Note:

You can read Vanessa’s pro term limits post here and check out what started this debate here.


  1. Vanessa Marvin
    Posted Aug 18, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    I’ll definitely say that I was disapointed to read in that CGS report that legislators don’t go home to become teachers & shopkeepers again. But I don’t think that’s a reason to just let them stay in the legislature. In fact, it just shows that the only way we’re going to get any new blood into the entire system is by having something like term limits to force people out.

  2. Justin Garrett
    Posted Aug 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Another way to force people out is to not vote for them. Voters always have the power to not vote for people who are doing a bad job, that power is just not always used. Why should legislators who are doing a good job be forced to leave their job because of this? Maybe now with open primaries and redistricting that power will be used properly.

  3. Jack Nicholl
    Posted Aug 19, 2011 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    While I was hiking the high Sierra loop, this conflict bursts into the open. The debate between Vanessa and Justin reflects the same divisions among forward thinking progressives that existed back when the issue was on the ballot and I voted for it. This was a reform we who voted for it hoped would begin to unpile the log jam in Sacramento that we’re all opposed to. But, it hasn’t. Maybe we never should have put so much hope in it. On the other hand, combined with the anti-gerrymandering redistricting which is going on right now, and the electoral reform that puts the two highest vote getters into the general election no matter what the party, we may have a winning combination. Clearly things need to be shaken up in a serious way and these three reforms are a good start.

  4. Vanessa Marvin
    Posted Aug 19, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s easy to say that voters should vote out legislators, but with the safe, gerrymandered districts that will never happen. No one from the same party will challenge an incumbent, and no one from the other party stands a chance to win in a district that totally leaning for the other party. I can only hope that Jack’s right and redistricting will help things. Otherwise term limits is the only chance to stop legislators from serving for 30 years.

  5. DT
    Posted Aug 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    How can you simultaneously argue both that term limits don’t work because politicians remain in government bouncing from role to role AND argue that they are inexperienced and know nothing of policy? Surely it can’t be both at once.

    Taking a step back, while term limits may not have solved all the ills of the world, I see no argument that anything would be better with them removed. Why not instead focus more on additional fixes such as tackling the corrupting influence of money on politics?

  6. DT
    Posted Aug 19, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    One more thought — I don’t feel sorry for the plight of the poor oppressed legislators who are forced to move on despite the great job they are doing. The whole two or three that might fit that category are surely outnumbered by the many more who gerrymander their way to assured re-election. The bias towards incumbents is a powerful force.

    Perhaps our un-informed and un-interested electorate simply gets the government they deserve. Or the huge TV ad buys drown out any ability to parse the reality for those not living for every update from various political blogs. While we are at it, the he-said/she-said mentality of a media unable to separate truth from lie likely do more harm than anything else covered.

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