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Senate, Assembly leaders crafting plans to rewrite term limits law

Legislative leaders have launched negotiations to create an independent commission to change Proposition 140, the landmark ballot initiative that limited lawmakers’ terms and abolished their pensions. A new constitutional amendment intended to rewrite the law–a sacred political cow in California for 16 years–awaits action on the Senate floor. The proposal may be linked to redistricting reform.

For now, the amendment, SCA19 by Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, is a vaguely worded document, known in Capitol parlance as a “spot bill,” that gives little indication of the magnitude of the final proposal. The Senate Elections Committee speedily sent SCA19 to the floor on a 4-0 vote, although it appeared that some members were caught by surprise. The chairwoman of the committee, Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey, a candidate for secretary of state, abstained from the vote.

“It is obviously and forthrightly a ‘spot bill,'” Morrow said. “The general concept at this point is to set up an independent commission, to give that commission limited authority, a window if you will, to modify Proposition 140. It is my general understanding that the leadership has agreed to negotiate this issue,” Morrow told the committee. A Senate analysis of the bill commented wryly on the bill’s ‘to be amended’ status: “See Spot. See Spot run,” the official analysis reads.

Morrow acknowledged that he had little detailed information about the plan. “I only signed on to ride this horse. I’m not necessarily the trainer or the owner or know what the horse is going to look like, once it’s acquired,” he said. Morrow, defeated in the GOP primary to replace former Rep. Randy “Duke’ Cunningham in the 50th Congressional District, is himself termed-out. If approved by the Legislature, his constitutional amendment would bypass the governor’s desk and go directly to the ballot.

All of the principals directly involved in the negotiations declined to discuss the issue with Capitol Weekly. Lawmakers’ aides in both parties say the discussions over the proposal have occurred over the past two months. The talks are gaining momentum, they added, as a June 29 deadline–a deadline that is easily breached–approaches for approving measures for the November ballot. The results of two new, privately commissioned polls about the public’s views on changes to term limits and redistricting also are being circulated in the Capitol and have played a part in the discussions, sources said.

In the Senate, Sens. Jim Battin, R-La Quinta, and Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, are negotiating the issue for their respective caucuses. In the Assembly, GOP Leader George Plescia of San Diego is involved in the discussions, as is Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu


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