Quirks of Term Limits

A quirky result of term limits; last year, John M. W. Moorlach was serving on the Orange County Board of Supervisors with Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen. Now, all three are State Senators. But Moorlach, elected four months after the others will actually term out two years earlier.

Term Limits 1.0

Under California’s first term limits law (TL1), legislators were able to serve three 2-year terms in the Assembly and two 4-year in the State Senate.

Romero

There was one caveat, which had to do with special elections; if a legislator won a special election and assumed office in the first half of a term, that fraction was treated as a full term (and counted towards term limits). Alternatively, if a legislator won a special election and assumed office in the second half of a term, that fraction was treated rounded down (and didn’t count towards term limits).

  • ROUNDING UP: Examples of the rounding up of terms includes George Runner, who left the State Senate as a termed-out member on December 21, 2010 (just past the halfway point in his second term). If Runner had resigned on November 30, 2010, he would be eligible for another full term in the Senate. (Runner served 73 months in the State Senate)
  • ROUNDING DOWN: A great example of rounding down was Gloria Romero, who was elected to the Senate in March 2001 and served 21 months of that fractional term before serving another two full terms. (Romero served 117 months in the State Senate)

A total of 432 legislators served during the TL1 era (1990-2010). Of them, only 38 termed out of both houses. That’s about 8.8%.

 

Term Limits 2.0

Moorlach

The TL2 era began when voters approved Proposition 28 (2012), changing the term limits law to an overall cap of 12 years in the legislature (rather than a number of terms in a specific house). The old caveat disappeared; the new law specifically said that “may serve no more than 12 years in the Senate, the Assembly, or both, in any combination of terms.”

  • This means that Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, who was elected in a special election in December 2013 (just past the halfway point in the 2013-14 term) will term out at the same time as the Assemblymembers who were elected 13 months before.
  • Similarly, State Senator John Moorlach (elected March 2015) will serve the remainder of his current term and be eligible for two more terms, leaving in office in 2026. His colleagues who were elected to full terms in November 2014 will be eligible to serve until 2028.

 

Term Limits Prospective

Of the 120 seats in the Legislature, there are currently (March 2015); 46 TL1 legislators, 73 TL2 legislators, and one vacancy.

The Assembly is divided into three groups;

  • Terming out in 2016. The last of the current TL1 members (there will almost certainly be one or two former TL1 members who run again in the next decade). This also includes Mike Gatto (elected in a 2010 special election) and Beth Gaines (elected in a 2011 special election).
  • Terming out in 2026. The first TL2 members who were first elected in November 2012, plus the members who won special elections during the 2013-14 session.
  • Terming out in 2028. The second class TL2 members who were first elected in November 2014.

The Senate is divided into #groups;

  • Terming out in 2016. Six TL1 members who have served in the Senate since 2009.
  • Terming out in 2018. Six TL1 members who have served in the Senate since 2011.
  • Terming out in 2020. Nine TL1 members, including eight who have served in the Senate since 2013, and one elected in a 2014 Special Election.
  • Terming out in 2020. TL1 member Sharon Runner. Elected in a 2011 Special Election, and served less than half a term. Elected in a 2015 Special Election, and will again serve less than half a term. Eligible for a full term in 2016.
  • Terming out in 2022. Seven TL1 members who have served in the Senate since 2015.
  • Terming out in 2022. A TL1 State Senator first elected in 1978, Jim Nielsen served in the Senate until 1990, and returned after winning a special election in January 2013.
  • Terming out in 2022. The first TL2 Senator to term out will be Andy Vidak, elected in a special election in July 2013. Although he served only 16 months of his first term (ending in November 2014), the 12-year cap means that Vidak will only be eligible to serve two more full terms.
  • Terming out in 2024. A TL1 State Senator elected in December 2014, Isadore Hall is eligible to serve in the Senate until 2024. He will not be staying that long; he’s running for Congress in 2016.
  • Terming out in 2024. The first TL2 State Senator, Richard Roth, who was first elected in November 2012, plus the members who won special elections during the 2013-14 session.
  • Terming out in 2024. Similar to Vidak, John Moorlach will be limited to only two full terms after his fractional term, leaving office in 2024.
  • Terming out in 2026. The five members of the second class TL2 members who were first elected in November 2014.

A chart showing the remaining maximum time that each legislator has in their current house. Note the Nielsen tail stretching back to the 1970s:

Remaining Service for Current Legislators

Remaining Service for Current Legislators