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2017 Winners and Losers on Term Limits in Florida

December 27, 2017 - 6:00am
Ron DeSantis, Jack Latvala and Richard Corcoran
Ron DeSantis, Jack Latvala and Richard Corcoran

No issue inspires more political energy in Florida than does term limits. At any given moment there are always campaigns underway to apply term limits to more offices or, in the case of cynical politicians, to undo or evade voter-approved laws. U.S. Term Limits tracked this activity for 2017 and prepared a summary.

There are no letter grades here; just, as President Trump would say, winners and losers. 

For our purposes, a “winner” is someone who stands with the people of Florida in advancing term limits and citizen government. 

A “loser” is someone who works to undermine voters, weaken term limits or further entrench the status quo. Let’s review.

Winners

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. The Palm Coast Republican and likely gubernatorial candidate has taken up the torch in the movement to term limit Congress. In January, DeSantis introduced HJR 6, a resolution that would impose a three-term limit on members of the U.S. House and a two-term limit on members of the U.S. Senate. DeSantis has frequently used his public appearances and meetings with President Trump to cajole the president into making term limits a front-burner issue. If DeSantis’ efforts pay off, it will be a game-changer.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz. If anyone can rival DeSantis’ boldness on term limits, it’s Corcoran, another potential candidate for governor. The speaker has twice passed through his House a ballot proposal applying term limits to Florida’s Supreme Court and appellate judges. Corcoran also made pro-term limits appointments to the Constitutional Revision Commission, which could result in either judicial term limits, school board term limits or both appearing on the 2018 ballot.

Jacksonville City Councilmen John Crescimbeni and Tommy Hazouri. Crescimbeni and Hazouri are the unsung heroes who saved Jacksonville’s term limits. Facing a threat from colleagues who wanted to gut the limits, the Democratic duo built a coalition to protect the two-term referendum that passed with 82 percent voter approval in 1991. Crescimbeni brought a homemade term limits sign from that first referendum into the council chambers; Hazouri dropped a truth bomb on colleagues by claiming “we have met the enemy and he is us.” 

Collier County School Board Member Erika Donalds. Donalds, the finance wiz who is now the vice chairman of the Collier County School Board, is a strong advocate for bringing fresh faces and ideas to Florida’s ossified education system. As a member of the Constitutional Revision Commission, she shepherded through two committees a proposal that would limit all 356 School Board members to no more than two four-year terms in office. If a supermajority of the full CRC membership approves Donalds’ proposal, Florida voters will have the opportunity to approve it next November.

 

Losers

Former State Senator Jack Latvala. For years Latvala, a Republican from Pinellas County, had carved out a reputation as the angriest critic of Florida’s term limits. In an ironic twist, his career ends as a grim warning that we can’t possibly throw the bums out fast enough. Just months after telling an audience in Sarasota that term limits were to blame for Florida’s ills, Latvala was outed as a serial sexual harasser. A special master who investigated the matter has even raised the possibility that criminal charges could be raised at the former senator. It’s hard not to see the connection between Latvala’s hoarding of power and predatory behavior. Term limits bring the Tallahassee gravy train to a halt — a painful thought for anyone abusing their job to reap rewards.

State Representative James Grant, R-Tampa. Grant was first elected to the State House in 2010, yet claims he is eligible to serve through 2024, an egregious violation of the eight-year term limits passed by 77 percent of Florida voters. What makes Grant believe he is a time traveler who can go back to freshman year? An irregularity in his 2014 reelection which vacated his seat for only 155 days. Fortunately, Grant is facing consequences for thumbing his nose at voters. In June, a term limits revolt sunk his campaign for House speaker; in November, businessman Terry Power announced a primary challenge against Grant.

Palm Beach Gardens City Council. Citizens of Palm Beach Gardens, a small city just north of West Palm Beach, are in open rebellion against their City Council and for good reason. When city residents in 2014 placed on the ballot and passed with 80 percent of the vote a measure for council term limits, all five incumbent councilors quickly termed out. But now the all-new Council, which owes all its political success to term limits alone, is trying to gut those same limits. They climbed a ladder into power and now want to knock it away so no one can use it to displace them. This act of arrogance has been met with protests, emphatic anti-Council testimony and near-certain lawsuits, mostly over the Council’s attempt to hide the new anti-term limit measure on a low-turnout March ballot.

 

Nick Tomboulides is Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits, a national non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. and Melbourne, FL. 

Comments

Palm Beach City Council is one of the highest paid --they even get a pension! The way they're fighting to get an extra term when they've just started their first terms tells you where their motivation is --and it ain't public service!

In the early days of nation, those who served in Congress and other public offices did so out of a desire to help the country grow and prosper; they hurried home when legislative sessions ended, returning to the jobs from which they earned the income needed to sustain themselves and their families. They didn't make a career out of jobs in government.

Term limits are important. Congress needs term limits because we need to drain the swamp. Career politicians are bad for Americans. Besides term limits for school board members, we need term limits for tax collectors, judges, supervisors of elections, clerks of the court and county commissioners throughout the state.

Thanks for the mention, Nick. One of my main objectives Tallahasee will be to close the Jamie Grant Term Limit Loophole (if it even actually exists). Once you've served in the Florida House for eight consecutive years (as Grant has), that should be it under Florida law. Stay tuned. This is going to get interesting. There's more info about this at my campaign website at www.PowerDistrict64.com. Thanks again.

Term limits give us competitive elections -- with serious candidates! -- and regular turnover. Plus, they sever the relationships between special interests and politicians on a regular basis. They are vital to a healthy legislature whether at the state or municipal level. Bravo to the "winners!" Can you believe the arrogance of the Palm Beach Gardens City Council trying to overturn term limits which passed with 80% of the vote as recently as 2014? Wow.

Term limits have good and bad points. Good .... They get rid of rascals and bums. Bad ...... They usher in a new set of neophytes and poly annas

Neophytes? Pollyannas? The opposite! Successful people run to do a public service not make a career out it --and don't have getting reelected a Job#1. We don't get good candidates now because with the costs --in money and abuse-- good people don't run. The odds of beating an incumbent with all of their advantages is less than 10:1. Advantages include name recognition and lobbyi$t support,

Neophytes and Pollyannas? Regular elections bring in professionals with 1) business experience 2) better representatives to the communities they serve 3) lawmakers from local governments who are anything but neophytes. As far as Pollyannas... we need fresh blood, particularly in Congress. Trouble is, those already riding the gravy train don't want outsiders coming in to see what is really going on behind the curtain. I SAY WE NEED MORE POLLYANNAS to bring dignity and respect back to government service and to shed the light on the elite political culture of closed door, back deals and service to special interest money and power grubbers.

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