Orange County Register: Letters: Hit the brakes on term limit extension

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Orange County Board of Supervisors is considering placing a measure on this November’s ballot that would ostensibly “strengthen” term limits. The board should reject this self-serving reform proposal crafted “by, for, and on behalf of Supervisor Shawn Nelson” because it is deceptive. During our tenure on the Board of Supervisors, a similar proposal was introduced and defeated in 2012. We both voted against that proposal because it was a bad idea then, and it is a bad idea now.

Supervisor Nelson’s proposal would allow the current supervisors to serve an additional 12 to 20 years on the board compared to the current term limits, conveniently resetting their own term limit clocks. This proposal also fails to disclose that with these extended term limits comes a windfall of taxpayer-funded pension, health and county-defined contribution benefits upon their “retirement” as county supervisors.

The current proposal is a far cry from the wishes of California voters. This proposal is, in fact, the antithesis of Proposition 28, the state legislative term limit reform proposal enacted by voters in 2012, which was crafted through stakeholder meetings with legislators, businesses, nonprofit leaders and the public. As a result of public participation, the end result of Proposition 28 prohibited sitting legislators from extending their terms and reduced the total number of years an individual could serve. This public process ensured that Proposition 28 was not self-serving and was a true reform of term limits for state legislators in office.

While Supervisor Nelson claims that the motive behind his measure is to better serve the people, it is hard to agree with his stated motive for this measure: “the learning curve for board members is steep.” Almost all, if not 100 percent, of supervisors who have served under the current term limit regulation of two consecutive four-year terms, have had productive and effective service on local government boards, and have had adequate experience and knowledge of government processes and regulations. Since the enactment of the current term limit policy, only one former supervisor was re-elected and returned to a seat on the Board of Supervisors after previously serving two consecutive terms. One must believe these individuals could not have been elected by the voters of Orange County if they did not find them worthy and up to the task.

As former county supervisors, we urge the board to oppose the self-serving term limit proposal as currently written. The current supervisors should initiate a thorough analysis by legitimate stakeholder groups that includes the public to determine if current term limits need to be fixed to better serve the public, rather than serving politicians.

Patricia Bates
Laguna Niguel
State Senator, 36th district

Janet Nguyen
Garden Grove
State Senator, 34th district

Published by the Orange County Register