Early returns indicate that Beverly Hills voters have overwhelmingly passed a measure imposing term limits on City Council members and City Treasurers. The ballot measure, known as Measure TL, will limit elected officials to three terms or 12 years in office.
Although the vote will not be certified for another 30 days from the election, Measure TL currently has over 80% of the vote, all but guaranteeing its passage.
Proponents of the measure stated that it will “create more competitive elections, encourage more residents to run for office, and give voters a wider range of choice,” according to arguments in favor of the measure submitted to the city by former City Treasurer Eliot Finkel, and former Councilmembers Mark Egerman and Robert Tanenbaum.
“Term limits will also provide voters with a regular opportunity for change, which will bring new viewpoints, innovative ideas and fresh perspectives to our city,” according to the former officials.
Measure TL was placed on the ballot amid controversy over a legally problematic provision that applies the limits to terms served prior to its passage. When the City Council voted to leave the question of term limits up to residents, Councilmember John Mirisch and then-Mayor Robert Wunderlich both voiced concerns over the retroactive nature of the measure. Mirisch voted against putting the measure on the ballot while Wunderlich, who noted his objection to that particular element of the proposal, opted to let voters decide.
Though the measure garnered the overwhelming support of voters on June 7, its reach remains unsettled. California’s Government Code states that any restriction on City Council limits should not consider terms served prior to the adoption of the law and “shall apply prospectively only.”
But Measure TL says that “an individual’s previous and current terms of office shall be counted.”
City Attorney Laurence Wiener acknowledged that the provision leaves the law open to legal challenge. But, he says, the issue has never come in front of a court before.
As currently written, the measure now bars Mirisch, Mayor Lili Bosse, and Vice Mayor Julian Gold from running for reelection. Mirisch, who ran in this most recent cycle, would be allowed to serve out a fourth term if he succeeds in holding his seat. He has not ruled out either running for Council again if he loses or running for a fifth term, though either would require a legal challenge to the law.
“I certainly am not thinking ahead that far, but I wouldn’t rule it out for that reason,” he previously told the Courier.
While no court has weighed in on the matter, then-Attorney General Kamala Harris opined on the retroactivity question in 2012, writing that term limits could not apply to terms previously served.
“A term served on a town council that was served prior to the effective date of a local initiative term-limit ordinance may not be counted against the term limit imposed by that ordinance,” Harris wrote. “We find no ambiguity in the requirement of Government Code section 36502(b) that locally enacted term-limit provisions must apply prospectively.”