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Field Poll: Term Limits Reform,Tobacco Tax Leading

May31

California voters look like they’re about to do the right thing: partially repeal one of the worst “reforms” they’ve ever adopted: term limits for members of the Assembly and State Senate.

Confused by the image of Jimmy Stewart as Mr. Smith and stirred by cynical anti-government agitators, voters tend to 1) despise professional politicians and 2) romanticize the notion of a “citizen legislature.”

Instead, term limits have weakened leaders’ ability to enforce discipline and make deals, wiped out lawmakers’ institutional memory, delivered power to the permanent lobby and staff, and helped cripple the legislative branch of government. Oh, and they’ve spurred a frenzy in which members of one house are immediately plotting how they’ll raise money and get elected to the other house.

So it comes as good news that the Field Poll finds that there’s at least a chance that voters will approve Prop. 28, which would reduce the total number of years a politician can serve in the state legislature to 12 years from a total of 14, but would permit all 12 years to be served in either the Assembly or State Senate.

According to Field, Prop. 28 leads 50-28% among likely voters and those who’ve already cast ballots, with 22% still undecided. Democrats break 50-25-25%, Republicans lean 50-32-18% and Decline-to-States and others stand at 51-30-19%. Interestingly, moderate are the most supportive at 59-22-19%, compared to liberals at 45-32-23% and conservatives at 46-33-21%. (The LA Times/USC survey reported Wednesday afternoon that Prop. 28 ahead 49-33% among likely voters.)

While it would be better just to eliminate term limits altogether and allow voters to keep representatives they like and get rid of those they don’t like, modifying the system to allow legislators to develop some time (12 years) and wisdom in whichever house they serve in would be better than restricting them to a maximum of six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate.

This is not a view limited to life-boat shooters and government-loving liberals, as our friend former Assembly Republican Leader Bob Naylor explained back in July 2009.

Smoke this, sweetheart Prop. 29, on the other hand, which would raise taxes on tobacco products and dedicate the funds to cancer research and smoking prevention, is poised to pass – it leads 50-42% with just 8% undecided – but is far from black and white.

(The LA Times/USC survey found a bigger margin for Prop. 29 — 62-33%.)

Everyone’s in favor of cancer research and most people don’t mind slapping more taxes on tobacco. But locking up the estimated $735 million a year the new taxes would generate for a dedicated purpose is just another impediment to developing a state budget that puts general funds into things people want most – like education, public safety, highways, social services and health, state parks, etc.

The reviled tobacco industry is, of course, spending millions to kill Prop 29 and they appear to be having some impact: those who have already voted by mail backed the measure 51-41% but those who plan to vote on June 5 – people seeing anti-Prop 29 TV ads — support the measure 48-43%.

Younger voters, age 18-39, back the measure 66-24%; those age 40-64 support it 49-42%, but those 65 and older oppose it 51-42%. Democrats and DTS voters both back the measure 61-32% but Republicans oppose it 58-32%. Smokers (a diminishing group of voters) oppose the measure 75-17%; former smokers are split, 47% against and 46% in favor; and those who’ve never smoked support it 55-36%.

The Field Poll surveyed 916 registered voters May 21-29, including 606 likely voters in the June primary election. The margin of error for likely voters is +/- 4%. Because the Field Poll refuses to allow Calbuzz to become a paid subscriber, results have been gathered from sources.


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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. avatar annromano says:

    Too bad tobacco industry support for No on 29 is obscuring the real issue, as you point out: sequestering a big chunk of money for a dedicated purpose.

  2. avatar JohnF says:

    Well passage of Prop 28 (if it occurs) will be another step in getting a functioning government back. It will not the make Republicans happy, but nothing ever does.

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