I supported the 1990 term limits law until I returned to the Assembly in 2003. I served when the law had not yet taken full effect, and I saw the impacts of that law after it was fully implemented. The Assembly in 2003 was at least two term limit generations away from the Assembly of 1992-94. I was shocked at what I saw.
If you are a student of the Federalist Papers, specifically Federalist No. 10, you know that Madison commented that natural tendency of special interests (factions as he named them) is to take over the levers of government and use those levers to their advantage. Those in government generally rely on those special interests to keep their power, so a symbiotic relationship is formed. The special interests press those in power to cede the power of government to the agenda of the special interest, and to stay in power, the government officials (whether they are politicians or bureaucrats) agree to do so, in order to keep their job and stay in power. It is rare for a politician (particularly) to say no to a special interest, because of that symbiotic relationship.
I put this principle in more common terms. The hardest thing for a politician to do is say NO to his or her friends. The people who helped put that politician in power, worked for that politician, and pressed his or her case for office when no one else would, did so because they believed that politician would do what they want, for good or ill. The politician owes that group of people some level of loyalty, or a debt, for their help. When they want something, the politician says no to them at the risk of appearing disloyal or ungrateful, or even incurring their anger. I can tell you from personal experience it takes about 5 years to repair that relationship.
However, sometimes your friends want things from government they shouldn’t get, things that are not good for people as a whole, though it may be of great benefit to those who are asking. A politician should tell those people NO, and accept the consequences, even if it means the politician’s job. But politicians are people too. They don’t want to lose their job.
The problem of the current term limits law is that the terms, particularly in the Assembly, are too short. No one tends to oppose incumbents, but they will oppose that officeholder for the next job they seek, particularly if they have a vendetta to pursue. A perception of betrayal generates just such a vendetta.
If it takes 5 years to repair the relationship harmed by saying no, and the politician won’t risk losing that an election for another job in politics by making his or her friends angry, he or she just won’t say no. That is particularly true because the politician knows that there is someone else in the house who may be running against him or her within that five years, who will probably say yes, and will get the support of the friends because they are still angry. Having experienced just such retribution myself (to a lesser extent than the Democrat majority), I can tell you that the fear of such retribution has an impact on how a politician does his or her job.
Why do the unions get whatever they want, without restriction in the Legislature these days? It is because no Democrat wants to say no to any of them. The Dems will say no to a Republican’s friends with impunity, but they risk political oblivion by saying no to the unions. The result? The Democrat majority has become the tool of the Democrat interests groups under the current term limit law.
If the terms were extended to twelve years total, no matter which house in which the term is served, that change alone would blunt this tendency. Unfortunately, the moment someone gets elected to the Assembly, that person starts looking for his or her next job in politics. The result has been a legislature out of control, completely ceding its authority to the special interests that fund and support the Democrats. At least Proposition 28 would have some positive effect on changing that dynamic. I personally think it is a good idea, and deserves consideration.