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Attorney General Issues Official Opinion on Term Limits Law

Wednesday, April 9, 2003
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today issued an official opinion concluding that State Senator Don Perata is eligible to run for re-election because his first term, which began in 1998, was less than half of a full four-year Senate term, measured from the time he took office.

The Attorney General is authorized to issue formal opinions answering questions of law posed by qualified requesters, including legislators. While AG opinions are entitled to great weight and respect by the courts, the opinions do not have the same force of law as a statute enacted by the Legislature or a judicial decision. Following the decades-old policy of the office, the Attorney General relies on a team of veteran Department of Justice attorneys to research, debate and prepare a draft opinion for his review and approval. This opinion is the product of that disciplined process.

The Attorney General issued the following statement regarding today's opinion:

"This opinion answers a simple question: Given the facts relating to Senator Perata's assumption of office in 1998, may he run for one more term in the State Senate? Unfortunately, simple questions don't always result in easy answers when applying complex and sometimes conflicting statutory, constitutional and court-made laws.

"The facts surrounding Senator Perata's special election in 1998 are unique and, I believe, clearly lead to the conclusion that he is eligible to run for re-election. In short, Senator Perata did not begin serving his term until he took the oath and was authorized to exercise the powers and duties of a senator.

"There are those who will disagree with my interpretation of the law, and it is safe to assume that a court ultimately will decide the issue."

A copy of the Attorney General's opinion can be found by searching for "03-106" at: www.ag.ca.gov/opinions/searchOpinions.php

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