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It appears as though I should have done a little googling yesterday to find the skinny on California potentially moving its presidential primary up a few months.

Right now, you’ll remember, the state is scheduled to hold its presidential primary, along with the rest of the state’s primary elections, in June 2008 — much too late to have any effect on presidential politics.

So, just like in 2004, there are rumors that the state wants to move the presidential primary up a few months. But this time, the rumors hold that the state would only move the presidential primary earlier and not the whole state’s primary.

Under this scenario, the presidential primary would be moved up but the regular primary for state and local governments would remain in June.

On these elections, people can tack on other initiatives. That’s, of course, why we’re talking about it — because of the possibility that, locally, Wal-Mart and others may have some referendums in mind looking only for a ballot on which to put them.

Sacramento watchers are abuzz about the talk that legislators want to put an extension to term limits on the same ballot as a March presidential primary. Right now, state senators are limited to two terms of four years each and members of the Assembly are limited to serving three terms of two years each.

Both Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñéz are coming up against the wall of term limits. Unless something changes, they’ll both be forced from their offices.

This blog from the San Francisco Chronicle noted the possibility that they may be thinking of a way out of that.

As did longtime SacBee columnist Dan Walters, who makes the situation very clear in a column Dec. 5:

Nuñéz and Perata would be forced out of office by voter-approved term limits in 2008, and the prevailing Capitol belief is that their successors would come from the extraordinarily large blocs of first-termers in both houses that were sworn in on Monday, thereby giving the new leaders as much time in office as possible under term limits.

At the same time, however, there are rumbles about modifying those limits — now six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate — to allow Nuñéz and Perata to run for new terms and continue in the Legislature’s two most powerful positions.

Schwarzenegger says he will renew his efforts to take the decennial redrawing of legislative districts out of the hands of lawmakers and give it to some kind of independent commission, and legislative leaders have publicly endorsed the notion, although a measure to do that died this year. Schwarzenegger has also indicated that he’d be amenable to changing term limits as part of a legislative reform package. The most commonly mentioned change would be to allow someone to serve 12 years in one house.

However, Nuñéz and Perata could benefit from such a deal only were it to be approved by voters in time for them to seek re-election in 2008. And that meshes with another notion that’s kicking around the Capitol to push California’s presidential primary from June to March, or even earlier, in 2008, supposedly to give the state more influence in selecting presidential candidates.

The Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton doesn’t buy it:

Both reforms — term limits and redistricting — are badly needed. But the public just might regard this whole political maneuver as too convoluted, cynical and self-serving.

There’s an even bigger hurdle for primary-splitters: cost. The state would be out $50 million to hold a separate presidential primary. Fiscal conservatives undoubtedly would balk.

So a separate, early presidential primary may be beyond California’s grasp. If it is, here’s a bold alternative: a caucus system. Most caucus states are peewees, but let’s not be haughty. What we’re doing now isn’t working.

SCOTT LEWIS

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