Proposition 28

Limits on Legislators' Terms in Office

Click here to create an account and save your votes.

Proposition 28 would alter the California Constitution by reducing the total number of years that a California Senate or Assembly member may serve in legislature. Currently, legislators may serve 14 years total with a maximum of six years in the State Assembly and eight years in the State Senate. Proposition 28 would limit members to 12 years in either house with no regard to whether the years were served in the Assembly or the Senate. Legislators who are in office when the initiative goes into effect would not be affected by the new rules.

Official Election Results:
Yes: 2,726,707 [61.1%]
No: 1,731,189 [38.9%]



Proponents of Proposition 28 say that the measure will make the legislature more accountable. They claim that legislators that are looking ahead to future terms are not concentrating on their current responsibilities and that Proposition 28 will help remove the incentive to abuse existing term limits laws.


Californians for a Fresh Start [Website archived in Internet Archive]


Opponents of Proposition 28 claim that the initiative will actually lead to legislators serving more years in office, not less. They claim that the text of the ballot measure is misleading and that its authors intend to trick voters into doing the opposite of what they intend.


No on 28 [Website archived in Internet Archive]

In Depth


Prior to 1990, the California State Constitution article IV Section 2 declared when the terms of office began for legislators and set forth rules for election and eligibility. It allowed 40 State Senators to be elected for terms of 4 years and 80 Assembly Members to be elected for terms of 2 years. At that time, the Constitution contained no provisions limiting the number of times a legislator could be elected to the same office.

Modern California law for legislative term limits was created with the passage of Proposition 140 in November 1990. This measure changed the Constitution to restrict legislators to three two-year terms in the Assembly (a maximum of six years) and two four-year terms in the Senate (a maximum of eight years). They would not be permitted to run again. The measure provided an exception for any individual serving additional time by completing less than one-half of the term of another person who left the Legislature. In addition, Prop. 140 limited the amount legislators could spend on operating costs and staff salaries. The measure also stopped state legislators from earning retirement benefits for their service. Proposition 140 passed 52.17% to 47.83%.  

Proposition 140 was challenged in several court cases, the most significant of which was Bates v. Jones.

In that case, termed-out Assemblyman Tom Bates brought suit alleging that voters were not appropriately informed about the effects of the measure. Among several points of contention, Bates and his constituents maintained that the measure was unclear whether or not it imposed a lifetime ban on reelection. The California Supreme Court found that Proposition 140 was valid but invalidated the retirement provisions of the measure as they applied to legislators who were currently in office. Bates took his case to the federal courts, challenging that the measure violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of voters. The court initially agreed with his claim, before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against him, keeping the limits in place.

In 2002, California Democrats and other reformers sought to combat some of the provisions of Prop. 140 by placing Proposition 45 on the March 5, 2002 ballot. Prop. 45 was a constitutional amendment which would have permitted voters to petition the Secretary of State to allow their existing State Senator or Assembly Member to serve an additional four years in office. The measure required that registered voters living in the legislator's district would sign the petition in number up to 20 percent of the ballots cast for that office in the last general election. The measure was hotly contested and lost 57.7% to 42.3%.

Six years later, another term limits measure was brought before voters. Proposition 93 on the Nov. 2008 ballot, would have imposed limits on legislators' terms in office. It would have reduced the total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years. It would have allowed a person to serve a total of 12 years either in the Assembly, the Senate, or a combination of both. It also provided a transition period to allow current members to serve a total of 12 consecutive years in the house in which they are currently serving, regardless of any prior service in another house. The measure was defeated, 53.6% to 46.4%.

Details on Proposition 28

This measure would reduce the total number of years a legislator may serve to 12 years during his or her lifetime. Individuals could be elected to up to three four-year terms in the Senate or six two-year terms in the Assembly.

The measure has garnered controversy because it would allow legislators to serve less years total but for a longer period of time in a single house of the Legislature than what the current law provides. Under Prop. 28, individuals could be elected to serve in one house of the Legislature and then be elected to the other house, but they would still be limited to no more than 12 years in the Legislature as a whole. 

Under Proposition 28, Senators and Assembly Members who were first elected to the Legislature on or before the date of the election would continue to be subject to the current legislative term limits of 14 years as detailed in the California Constitution. Legislators elected after the date of this election would be subject to the new term limits.


PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and their Government, March 2012 [pdf]

“In 1990, California voters passed Proposition 140, which limits members of the state legislature to six years in the assembly and eight years in the senate. Proposition 28 on the June ballot would reduce the total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years and allows 12 years’ service in one house. The proposed term limits reform would apply only to legislators first elected after the measure passed. When read the ballot title and label for Proposition 28, 68 percent of likely voters would vote yes, 24 percent would vote no, and 8 percent are undecided."

USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll

California Initiatives: March 2012 Poll Results

"A majority of voters ... favored reducing term limits for state legislators.... Fifty-one percent of Californians support the measure and 32 percent oppose it."

Field Poll # 2409, May 31, 2012
“In a statewide survey completed one week before the election, The Field Poll finds likely voters in support of the passage of Prop. 28 by twenty-two points.”

Voter Resources

Official CA Documents

Official Voter Information Guide

Campaign Finance Information

Cal-Access General
Check out how much money is being raised and spent to pass or defeat this measure, and where the money is coming from.

Cal-Access Ballot Measure Summary Data Search 
Select "General 05 June 2012" and "Proposition 028" from the drop-down menus.
Cal-Access provides financial information supplied by state candidates, donors, lobbyists, and others.

Nonpartisan Analyses


League of Women of Voters: Pros and Cons


Everything You Need to Know About the June 5 Primary: Prop. 28
Fleischman Testifies Before Legislators On Prop. 28 -- JonSFleischman
Fleischman Testifies Before Legislators On Prop. 28 -- JonSFleischman
California Term Limits: Vote No on Prop 28 -- ReStartCongress
California Term Limits: Vote No on Prop 28 -- ReStartCongress
Share |