PROP. 225



U.S. Senate



Secretary of State



Attorney General

Insurance Commissioner

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Board of Equalization


Prop 219
Prop 220
Prop 221
Prop 222
Prop 223
Prop 224
Prop 225
Prop 226
Prop 227


Districts 1 - 26
Districts 27 - 52


Districts 2 - 40

Districts 1 - 20
Districts 21 - 40
Districts 41 - 60
Districts 61 - 80

Background | Proposal | Arguments for | Arguments against

An initiative statute calling on California's elected officials to help enact a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress.

The notion that the terms of elected officials should be limited in some way has been knocked around since the formulation of the Republic. It wasn't until 1990, though, that the notion of limiting the terms of legislative officers really caught fire with the passage in California of Proposition 140. Two years later, voters adopted Proposition 164, which extended term limits to the state's Senators and members of Congress. But while the courts have since upheld the state's authority to limit its own legislators, congressional term limits are a much dicier proposition, since the qualifications for holding office are determined not by the state, but by the federal constitution. Supporters of state-enacted congressional term limits argued the were entitled to make the change, since states are charged with responsibility for determining the shape and makeup of the ballot itself. When an Arkansas congressional term-limit law reached the U.S. Supreme Court, it ruled state-imposed term limits unconstitutional, effectively invalidating Proposition 164. So term limit advocates went back to the drawing board and came up with a new strategy: the "advisory" ballot measure. Voters in states with the initiative process would be asked to say whether or not they wanted their representatives to support term limits. Since these measures are not legally binding on the state's representatives, they are not subject to court challenge. They could, however, become a powerful political tool in the hands of those advocating for term limits. Voting against a federal constitutional amendment limiting terms would, in effect, be construed by advocates as a vote against the will of the people.

Proposition 225 declares that it is the official position of the People of California that its elected officials should vote to amend the United States Constitution to limit a person to no more than two terms as a senator and no more than three terms as a representative. The measure instructs the California Legislature to ask Congress to enact such an amendment. If an amendment is proposed by Congress, the measure instructs members of the Legislature to vote to ratify it. The measure requires that voters be informed if a candidate for Congress or the Legislature has failed to support the congressional term limit amendment. The legislative analyst estimates relatively minor costs to the state and to counties.

Arguments for:
Supporters of Proposition 225 include U.S. Term Limits. They say term limits return government to its citizen roots. By turning out members of Congress every few years, they say government will become more responsive and relate better to its constituents. They also maintain that, notwithstanding the problems faced by past congressional term limit proposals, this measure is clearly constitutional, since it doesn't formally bind legislators to a particular vote.

Arguments against:
Formal opponents include the Sacramento City Taxpayers' Rights League, but opposition to term limits of any sort exists among several elected officials in both parties. They argue term limits serve as a power source to lobbyists and corporations trying to put pork barrel bills through the Congress. Term-limited legislators, they contend, are less informed and more susceptible to special interest maneuvering and the influence of large campaign donors. They also suggest the "advisory" vote amounts to a "witch hunt," in that the initiative requires our elected officials to be investigated and branded for their thoughts on term limits.

-- Article by Tippy Young

This page first published May 5, 1998

Last updated May 25, 1998

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