WHEN FORMER ASSEMBLYMAN Joe Canciamilla mentioned he might run for his old seat if the February term-limits bill passes, he sent a shiver through the state's legislative incumbents.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, assured his colleagues during a Democratic caucus meeting that Proposition 93 excludes those experienced and potentially well-funded but termed-out legislators who might like another shot at Sacramento.

Prop. 93, if voters agree, allows lawmakers to serve as many as 12 years in either the state Assembly or the Senate. Current law limits legislators to 14 years -- six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate.

Its most controversial provision is a transition period where incumbents who term out next year -- including Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata -- are allowed to seek re-election.

But the exemption does not open the door to lawmakers such as Canciamilla who have already termed out, said Prop. 93 spokesman Richard Stapler.

It specifically restricts eligibility for extended service to a member of the Senate or Assembly "who is in office on the effective date of this (measure) who may serve 12 years in the house in which he or she is currently serving," according to the measure.

That appears to rule out Canciamilla of Pittsburg who has been out of office since 2006 after serving a maximum of six years in the Assembly.

Not necessarily, Canciamilla countered.

"I have a different interpretation," said Canciamilla, an attorney and funeral homeowner who has been raising money for a 2008 Senate race in the Contra Costa County district held by Sen.


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Tom Torlakson of Antioch. "I haven't looked at it in the context of a legal interpretation but the plain reading of the language appears to allow me to run."

If necessary, Canciamilla says he will seek an opinion from California Attorney General Jerry Brown or file a lawsuit.

"The fact that the proponents had to rewrite this measure to allow people like Perata to run again and that it barely got enough signatures to qualify for the ballot suggests that it hasn't been the most artful of efforts," Canciamilla said.

Whether Canciamilla could obtain a favorable judgment is a big unknown.

But the debate illuminates his political dilemma: If voters pass the term-limits bill in February, Canciamilla's prospects of returning to Sacramento next year dim considerably.

Torlakson says he will seek re-election under the new rules, which leaves Canciamilla with the unenviable task of running against the popular, two-term incumbent.

So, it's no wonder that Canciamilla is looking longingly at the seat he once held and evaluating his odds in a contest against one-term incumbent Mark DeSaulnier of Concord.

But heck, if Canciamilla finds himself with nowhere to run, he could always file for the state Board of Equalization race in 2010 along with a half-dozen termed-out or soon-to-be-termed-out legislators.

GOT POLITICS? Check out the week's political happenings on my blog at http://www.cctextra.com/blogs/politicsblog/ such as:

  • Contra Costa County faces a serious shortage of pollworkers for the June 2008 election, says Registrar of Voters Steve Weir. He blames apathy about a primary election that no longer contains the lure of the state selection of its choice for a presidential nominee.

    "Voter turnout in June is going to be terrible," Weir said. "And when the public isn't excited about the election, pollworkers aren't excited about the election."

    TOP SECRET. Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover is back home in Pittsburg after a scary month-long stay in the hospital, where he battled an illness that doctors still haven't diagnosed.

    But now that Glover is on the mend, we can poke a little fun at him, right?

    It seems that after he was admitted to the hospital in Martinez, Glover's staff wouldn't tell reporters where the supervisor was being treated. News accounts said he was in an "undisclosed location."

    The secrecy fueled speculation that Glover joined a commune for recovering politicians or was perhaps taping an edition of "Extreme Political Makeover." (These are jokes, people.)

    In his staff's defense, it worried that visitors would overwhelm the hospital. Instead, well-wishers filled his house with flowers and balloons.

    But c'mon. Undisclosed location? Who does Glover think he is? Dick Cheney?

    Lisa Vorderbrueggen covers politics. Read about political happenings every day on her blog http://www.cctextra.com/blogs/politicsblog/. Call her at 925-945-4773 or e-mail her at lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com.