Group threatens to strip lawmakers of per diem if they change term limits

A leading figure in the national term-limits movement arrived in Sacramento Monday to head off the ongoing discussion to alter legislative terms. U.S. Term Limits President Paul Jacob said if the Legislature tries to tweak the current term-limits law, his group will fund an initiative that would eliminate legislators’ tax-free, $153-per-day stipend, and force any future legislative pay to be approved by a popular vote.

“If they mess around with term limits, we will be much more inclined to say we need to go on offense,” said Jacob. “The public has made up their mind but we continue to get legislators who ignore the public and decided they are going to do what’s best for their careers.”

U.S. Term Limits has spent millions on initiative campaigns across the country for more than a decade. In 2002, when then-Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, qualified a term-limits extension for the California ballot, Americans for Limited Terms, a sister organization, poured $1 million to defeat the measure.

“We will fight any effort to hoodwink the voters and mess around with term limits,” says Jacob, who works closely with Howard Rich, a New York developer and driving force behind Proposition 90, an eminent-domain measure on the November ballot.

A draft of the per-diem initiative has already been submitted to the attorney general’s office, where it is awaiting an official ballot title and summary. The measure would require any future pay increases granted by the California Citizens Compensation Commission be approved by a popular vote. It would also stipulate that legislators receive a housing allowance–not to “exceed the median monthly rental cost” for a single family–in lieu of the current per-diem system.

At a press conference Monday, Assembly Speaker Fabian N

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