The year was 1990; 25 years ago. California voters enacted Proposition 140, which imposed term limits on state legislators and discontinued pensions for incoming legislators. Opponents of the proposition outspent proponents 31-1. The measure passed with 52 percent of the vote.
Voters were fed up with the mercurial, imperial Speaker of the Assembly Willie Brown. There was a movement to have what was referred to as citizen-legislators. The goal was for citizens to temporarily leave their private-sector vocations to represent the people in the state Legislature. Career politicians became a taboo in the voters’ minds.
I have never believed in term limits. Neither did Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the Republican Party.
Although well intentioned, Proposition 140 led to a lack of experience and institutional memory in the halls of the state capitol. Legislators became more susceptible to the pressures of special interests and their lobbyists.
On the bright side, Proposition 140 has brought us some citizen-legislators. Sen. Andy Vidak is certainly one. He knew the value of a buck as a small farmer in Hanford before he arrived in Sacramento. Sen. Vidak is a solid representative of the people.
Mark C. Salvaggio, Bakersfield