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Los Angeles County supervisors consider extending term limits (updated)

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The five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors could serve for at least 20 years – instead of the current 12 years – under a proposal to extend term limits. 

Supervisor Mike Antonovich will ask his colleagues tomorrow to place a charter amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot that would extend term limits from three four-year terms to five terms. Voters approved term limits in 2002, long after many of the current supervisors were elected to office.

In the Fifth District, Antonovich was elected in 1980. Supervisor Gloria Molina was elected in 1991, followed by Zev Yaroslavsky in 1994, Don Knabe in 1996, and Mark-Ridley-Thomas in 2008.  Under the current charter, Molina and Yaroslavsky would be termed out in 2014.

A sitting supervisor has not been defeated in 32 years. Back in 1980, Antonovich beat Baxter Ward and Deane Dana defeated Yvonne Burke. Twelve years later, Burke was elected to represent the Second District. 

In an example of how uncompetitive the supervisors’ elections are, this past June Ridley-Thomas and Knabe were the only candidates on the ballot in their districts. Antonovich was reelected with 79.5 percent of the vote.

In proposing the extention, Antonovich pointed to an editorial from the San Jose Mercury News, which stated that term limits may be a factor in the ongoing financial problems of California's cities and towns.

A statement from Antonovich's office read, "This current board has a proven track record of fiscal responsibility and effective management that has kept the county solvent and able to meet its obligations. With many municipalities in economic crisis, voters deserve the opportunity to choose who they feel is the most-experienced and best-qualified to navigate the county through tough times."

In the June primary, California voters approved Proposition 28, which altered term limits for state legislators. While it reduced the overall time lawmakers can spend in Sacramento, from 14 years to 12 years, Proposition 28 allows all of that time to be spent in either the Assembly or Senate.

Five years ago, Los Angeles city voters extended term limits for city council members from eight years to 12 years.

The Board of Supervisors will decide tomorrow whether to place the charter amendment on the November ballot. It would take approval from three supervisors to place the issue on the ballot, and a majority of the electorate to amend the charter.

This post has been updated. 

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