Paul Jacob

Somewhere a career politician is scheming...

But at least there are four career politicians in California whose schemes are coming to an end. They wanted to get term limits, but term limits got them. They wanted to ride forever on the gravy train, but the ride is over.

The politicians have run out of tricks and term limits are there to stay in our nation's most populous state. In his recent column in The Los Angeles Times, Eric Bailey wrote the swan song for Democratic senators John Burton, Byron Sher and John Vasconcellos and Republican Senator Ross Johnson with the heading, "Term limits are forcing the Legislature's four big veterans to end their careers."

Mind you, these four aren't alone. Another five senators and 18 members of the Assembly are also termed out. But they apparently aren't the "big four."

"There is no doubt that the law, which restricts senators to a pair of four-year terms and Assembly members to a trio of two-year stints, produced a statehouse more diverse in gender, ethnicity and professional background," Bailey admits. But he counters that there is a sense in the capitol "that something important will be lost with the looming exodus of the four big veterans."

What precisely will be lost, Mr. Bailey doesn't tell us. But perhaps we can gain appreciation for the loss by examining their careers and what they have meant to California governance. Though together these four big wheels total over a hundred years of experience, as the odometer turns what one notices is the string of zeros.

Senator John Burton will leave after spending nearly all of the last 40 years in politics. He served in the Assembly for 16 years and in Congress for eight years before he stepped down, admitting (according to Douglas Foster with San Francisco Magazine) "that he was addicted to alcohol, tranquilizers, nitrous oxide, and cocaine."

After treatment, Burton returned to the California Senate, where he remains president until the end of the year.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.