by Jennie Bowser
Of the 24 states that held presidential primaries and caucuses yesterday, only California also had statewide measures on the ballot. California voters considered seven statewide ballot measures yesterday. Three were citizen initiatives on term limits, gas taxes and community colleges, and all three failed to pass. The remaining four were popular referenda on tribal gaming issues, and all four passed.
The most closely-watched measure in California was Proposition 93, an initiative proposing to modify California's legislative term limits. California was one of the first states to pass legislative term limits, and has some of the strictest limits in the nation. Legislators may serve up to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate, then are barred for life from further legislative service. Prop. 93 would have decreased the total years a legislator could serve from 14 to 12, but removed the chamber-specific limits, allowing a legislator the option to serve all 12 years in a single chamber.
Despite an aggressive campaign from proponents and the endorsement of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Prop. 93 was defeated by a margin of 53-47. This is a closer margin than we've seen with previous attempts to modify legislative term limits. A 2000 initiative in California received just 40% of the vote, and legislative proposals in Arkansas (2004), Maine (2007) and Montana (2004) all polled in the low 30s. States that may consider modifications to term limits in November 2008 include Arkansas and Michigan. For more information on legislative term limits, visit NCSL's term limits page.
The four questions on California's ballot that passed were popular referenda dealing with tribal gaming compacts. The legislature passed amendments to the compacts with four different tribes, allowing for additional slot machines and exempting certain projects from the California Environmental Quality Act. The popular referenda were placed on the ballot via a petition process in an attempt to block the legislature's amendments. The "yes" votes on all four popular referenda mean that voters approve of the legislature's amendments, and they will now take effect. Yes, it's confusing, but in this case, a "yes" vote means that the backers of the popular referenda failed in their attempt to overturn the legislature's tribal gaming compact amendments.
Two other citizen initiatives on California's presidential primary ballot also failed to pass yesterday. Prop. 91 would have earmarked certain gasoline tax revenues for the transportation fund, and required repayment from the general fund of all such revenues deposited since 2003. Prop. 92 would have altered the governance and funding for the state's community colleges.