Why does State Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa) believe he’s above the law?
In a move that puts him in company with third world dictators, Grant is refusing to obey Florida’s constitutionally-required term limits. He is claiming a suspicious 155-day absence he took from 2014-2015 restarted his term limits clock all over again. That’s baloney.
Florida’s Constitution says no person may run for re-election to the State House after serving eight consecutive years in office. Since Grant was first elected in 2010, he is not eligible to run for his own seat in 2018, let alone chase dreams of becoming House Speaker in 2022.
On both counts, Grant would be in violation of the term limits approved by 77 percent of Florida voters in 1992.
Still, following in the precedent set by “statesmen” like Robert Mugabe and Hugo Chavez, Grant has filed for re-election in 2018.
It is critical that Grant face public scrutiny, primary challengers and litigation for the end-run he is attempting to do around the people’s term limits.
When Florida citizens created a ballot initiative in 1992 to term limit the State Legislature, the group called itself “Eight is Enough.” Their intention was crystal clear: to limit all legislators to no more than eight years in a single office. Grant must believe he is so special that he need not play by the rules that govern his fellow lawmakers.
Grant’s official excuse for evading term limits would be funny if it weren’t so sneaky. In 2014, an appeals court ruled that a write-in candidate had been improperly removed from the ballot in Grant’s re-election bid.
His House colleagues then declared Grant’s seat vacant and created a special election, which Grant won without real opposition. He was only out of office for 155 days, most of them not even part of the legislative session.
In this author’s own meeting with Grant in early 2014, it became clear that he is no fan of the term limits Florida voters love. At the time, Grant had a bill to weaken the eight-year limit and implied that he would like to see it removed entirely. It’s likely not a coincidence that the special election called by the Legislature had no value but to give Grant a justification for evading term limits.
Grant’s woodenly literal interpretation of term limits – that a 155 day recess means he didn’t serve eight years – is an affront to our state Constitution. If followed to its logical ends, Grant’s argument would effectively abolish term limits by allowing all politicians to resign a few minutes before the end of a term. That falls squarely outside the original intent of the voters and activists who created the law.
According to reports, Grant is under consideration to be named Speaker of the House for the two-year session running from 2022 to 2024. If he secures that position, it would be a slap in the face to the several million Floridians who voted for legislative term limits.
It would be telling voters our decisions don’t matter – that political games in Tallahassee can overcome the inconvenience of democracy.
It’s time to make clear to Rep. Grant: you are not above the law. You are term-limited and ineligible for re-election in 2018.
Nicolas Tomboulides is Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits, a Melbourne, FL-based nonprofit that advocates for term limits at all levels of government.