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Guess who’s blocking Congressional Term Limits — can you say Mitch?

A term limits amendment is about to be introduced in the U.S. House and Senate.

The Hill reports:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) say they want to help President-elect Donald Trump “drain the swamp” by imposing congressional term limits.

The two conservative lawmakers said in a Washington Post op-ed Friday they plan to introduce a constitutional amendment next month to limit members of Congress to three terms in the House and two in the Senate.

[ … ]

“We believe that the rise of political careerism in modern Washington is a drastic departure from what the founders intended of our federal governing bodies. To effectively ‘drain the swamp,’ we believe it is past time to enact term limits for Congress,” Cruz and DeSantis wrote.

The pair argues that imposing term limits would help prevent stagnation on Capitol Hill.

Read more…

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising to block any floor vote on term limits.

We’ve made incredible progress with our “two-track” strategy for slapping term limits on Congress.

The President-elect of the United States is on board. 

We have teams of staffers and volunteers in the states working overtime to pass the Term Limits Convention legislation in 34 states.

House Speaker Paul Ryan supports term limits and has asked for help passing legislation through the House.

Over 80% of Americans now support term limits.

Even Jeb Bush says he now supports convening the Term Limits Convention!

We’ve never been closer to imposing term limits on Congress.

But the Mitch McConnell and scores of other professional politicians are still standing in our way.

Just because Speaker Ryan or even President-Elect Trump want term limits doesn’t mean the rest of the Congress will go along. Just because the American people want term limits doesn’t mean Mitch McConnell won’t keep blocking our legislation.

Please help us redouble our efforts to pass term limits.

As I just mentioned, our term limits legislation is about to be introduced in both houses of Congress. We need to make sure our legislation isn’t changed or modified into a phony term limits measure that gives the professional politicians cover back home.

Then we need to rally the American people behind this bill. Please give anything you can to this emergency effort. We need to flood Capitol Hill and the targeted state capitals with petitions. We need to promote term limits nationwide. We need more ads and rallies and press events.

We can do this. But we must bulldoze right over the professional politicians like Mitch McConnell to get a vote on term limits.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Term Limits Would Infuse Congress With ‘New Blood,’ Lawmakers Argue

Here’s What the Founders Thought About Term Limits

EDITORS NOTE: Those who wish to “Drain the Swamp” may support Congressional Term Limits by donating here.

The two faces of Ken Sukhia, candidate for Congressional permanence

sukhiaIt is an old, old story.

A politician or wannabe politician announces he is a staunch supporter of term limits in general, as he knows the lion’s share of voters are. But he will quibble about some detail that allows him to be a opponent of any specific term limit proposal.

Thus, the politician can nod to his pro-term limits constituents and simultaneously wink at the anti-term limits lobbyists.

The latest exhibit in this dusty pantheon is former federal prosecutor Ken Sukhia who is running in the Republican primary for Florida’s 2nd Congressional district.

Here is Sukhia, captured on YouTube, dissembling before a would-be constituent.

Kudos to the voter who asked him the question about term limits. Let’s keep popping the question to candidates at public meetings — and posting the results. We need to hold these candidates accountable.

Florida: Term Limits Convention approved by House committee, Brevard REC

Rep. Matt Caldwell

It was a big day for the Term Limits Convention today, as the bill calling for the Article V amendment convention (HM 417) passed its second and last House committee and won a unanimous endorsement by the membership of the Brevard Republican Executive Committee.

The bill was approved in the House State Affairs Committee in a 14-3 vote, with chairman — and dependable term limits advocate — Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Fort Myers) presiding.

In the Senate, the TLC bill (SB 630) already passed two Senate committees late last year.

The TLC is now expected to see floor votes in both houses of the Florida legislature during the 2016 session which opened this week.

If it passes both chambers, Florida will be the first state to apply for amendment convention limited solely to the issue of Congressional term limits. Upon application of 34 states, Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires that Congress “shall” call the convention for the purpose of drafting the amendment. The resulting amendment must be ratified by 38 states.

The members of the Brevard Republican Executive Committee applaud the idea and, with a unanimous vote, became the third county Republican Party to officially endorse the Term Limits Convention at their January meeting. Chairman Barbara Davis led the vote of about 80 BREC members.

Previous resolutions in favor of the TLC passed with wide margins in Palm Beach and Volusia Counties in 2015.

Florida: Palm Beach Gardens Politician violates Term Limits — Seeks 5th Term

In spite of a new voter-approved term limits law that was approved by nearly 80 percent of the vote, 4-term incumbent Vice Mayor David Levy is running for his fifth consecutive election to the Palm Beach Gardens City Council. The 2014 law, which is retroactive, limits council members to two consecutive elections to the council.

Shredding the will of the people.

City cronies are circling the wagons for Levy, as his city attorney and city clerk, Patricia Snider, are arguing Levy can place his name on the ballot in spite of the new law. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher is permitting Levy’s name to appear, saying it is up to the municipality — that is, Snider — to enforce its own election laws.

Levy’s defense to irate voters is even more brazen. He is reportedly replying that if the voters don’t like his illegal candidacy, he won’t be able to win re-election.

In other words, the results of the 2014 elections didn’t count and he is entitled to a do-over — with different voters!

Levy’s smugness about a do-over comes from the fact that he knows that March municipal elections attract a very low turnout, from some 7,000 in 2014 to as little as 3,000 in 2011. On the other hand, over 20,000 voted on the term limits law in the general election of 2014.

This is one key reason why municipal term limits are so important. Incumbents can turn out the vote of self-interested special interests in their districts and win repeated, lopsided elections as the bulk of the citizenry are busy taking care of their own lives, families and businesses. It is a classic case of the phenomenon of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs.

Levy’s calculation — based on the pre-term limits math of automatic victory — is that even though law-abiding citizens won’t like it, he’ll win anyway. So, to hell with the voters. They probably won’t even hear about the fraud until it is too late, if ever.

Please tell Palm Beach Gardens City Clerk Patricia Snider that she works for the voters of Palm Beach Gardens, not for David Levy and other longtime incumbents. She should respect the will of the voters and not place Levy’s name on the ballot.

Send her an email by clicking here. Thanks!

Florida Senator Geraldine Thompson (D-Dist. 12) is a Term Limits Hero

On Nov. 17, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee took up the Term Limits Convention bill (SM630). This is the bill that calls for a national amendment convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution in order to enact Congressional term limits.

It started out fine but quickly went awry as the vice chair of the committee, Republican John Legg, suggested that the term limits convention may be part of a conspiracy to overthrow the constitution. He was followed by Sen. Jeff Clemens, a South Florida Democrat who has never shown any love for the second amendment, who asked if perhaps our right to bear arms could be threatened by consideration of Congressional term limits. What?

How the hearing took this this sour and darkly comical turn is unclear, but what is certain was that some senators wanted to talk about anything else that afternoon except for term limits. Perhaps the bipartisan popularity of the successful political reform makes it impossible for would-be professional politicians to tackle it in a straightforward manner. They have to obfuscate, confuse, baffle and confound to somehow malign a very simple issue that voters both understand and have long and positive experience with.

Just to be clear: A “convention to propose amendments” under Article V has no power whatever to make or change laws. According to Article V, it “shall” be convened upon the official calls of 2/3 (or 34) of the states. At the convention, delegates chosen and sent by the states can craft and suggest an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That’s it. To become law, three quarters (38) of the states have to ratify the amendment.

Sen. Joe Negron was about to suggest a tabling of the issue for a saner day, when Sen, Geraldine Thompson announced she intended to support the bill and wanted a vote. She got it, and SM630 passed its first Senate committee 5-4.

That Sen. Thompson, a Democrat, would save the day should not be surprising. Polling (Gallup 2013) shows that some 75% of Americans support Congressional term limits, including 65% of Democrats and 79% of independents.

Most special interests are not ideological but instead purely self-interested, representing corporations, professional organizations and unions that seek special favors and benefits from lawmakers and are willing to pay for them one way or another. Protecting individual Americans from corporate exploitation is a central message of Democratic campaign rhetoric. Term limits regularly sever the cozy relationships between special interest lobbyists and decision-makers and greatly reduce their influence.

There is also a self-interested — and completely legitimate — component of Florida Democratic support for term limits that is, currently, unique to the party. Florida (like some other Southern states) was once solidly blue and started to turn Republican long before that change was reflected in the legislature, as the power of incumbency prevented rotation in office and blocked the changes in the voters views to be expressed. The enactment of term limits speeded up the transition because it improved representation of the people through open seats, competitive elections and the introduction of new people and ideas.

Now that the Republicans are in a solid majority in Tallahassee, nearly every session a GOP bill to lengthen and weaken term limits is introduced in order to thwart electoral competition and protect their position. But when and if the pendulum swings back to the blue among the electorate, it will be the fluidity that comes with term limits that will ensure the voters’ will is reflected in a timely manner — not a generation later.

With her timely vote for term limits, Sen. Thompson struck a blow for the voters, her country and her party.

RELATED ARTICLE: Libertarian Party of Florida urging passage of Term Limits Convention bills

Florida: Term Limits Convention approaches next committee hurdle

Fresh from a 5-4 victory last week before the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and gaining several important endorsements, the Term Limits Convention bill (SM630) is headed to the Senate Rules Committee for a hearing and vote on Thursday, Dec. 3rd.

If it gets an OK from this committee, the next step is a vote on the floor of the Florida Senate! Hence, next week’s vote is critical.

Two of the pro-Congressional term limits votes from last week’s committee are on the Senate Rules Committee, Sens. Joe Negron and Garrett Richter. There are 9 Republicans and 4 Democrats on the committee.

While certainly no guarantee, this partisan breakdown bodes well for the bill as two important county Republican parties, Palm Beach and Osceola, recently passed resolutions endorsing the Term Limits Convention. The Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida officially endorsed the bills as well.

The Term Limits Convention bills (SM630 in the Florida Senate and HM417 in the House) are official applications for an amendment convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution explicitly limited to Congressional term limits. If two-thirds of the states (34) call for such a convention, Article V states that Congress ‘shall’ convene it. There, delegates from all the states will craft a Congressional term limits amendment proposal that would be submitted to the states for ratification. If three-quarters (38) of the states do so, Congressional term limits will be added to the U.S. Constitution.

Click on each Senator’s name below to send them an email expressing your support for Congressional term limits and urging them to support SM630. Look for the Email This Senator radio button in the left-hand column.

The Florida Senate Rules Committee

Senator David Simmons (R), Chair  Winter Park
Sen. Darren Soto (D), Vice Chair  Kissimmee
Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto (R)  Fort Myers
Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R)   Miami
Sen. Don Gaetz (R)   Destin
Sen. Bill Galvano (R)  Bradenton
Sen. Audrey Gibson (D)   Jacksonville
Sen. Arthenia L. Joyner (D)   Tampa
Sen. Jack Latvala (R)   Clearwater
Sen. Tom Lee (R)   Brandon
Sen. Bill Montford (D)   Montford
Sen. Joe Negron (R)   Palm City
Sen. Garrett Richter (R)   Naples

Defended: Term Limits in Nashville, TN

Don’t you just love when citizens take a stand against slippery politicians? That’s what happened last week in Nashville, when U.S. Term Limits helped citizens defeat two anti-term limits proposals foisted on them by the city’s Metro Council.

Nashville Council members have now tried five times to weaken their two-term limit, failing each time because voters are too smart to allow it.

Councilwoman Emily Evans thought she had finally figured out how to trick the people, combining weaker term limits and a smaller Council size into one ballot measure. But thanks to the efforts of local activists and USTL on the ground, that was not to be.

A late yard sign campaign informed citizens at every polling place that Evans’ amendment was crooked, and it was beaten in a landslide 26-point margin. The special interests that funded her campaign were shocked!

USTL assists in local term limits campaigns because elected officials at all levels will veer into corrupt and self-serving behavior. When this happens, the wealthy lobbyists and donors who prop up politicians will do everything they can to beat term limits.
We cannot let it happen.

Thank You,

Nick Tomboulides
Executive Director, U.S. Term Limits

Supreme Court: No More Lifetime Appointments by Doug Bandow

Democrats and Republicans alike have turned Supreme Court appointments into a partisan slugfest. No wonder: while the judiciary has long been described as the least dangerous branch of government, the court has become instead a continuing constitutional convention. Just five votes can turn the Constitution inside out.

The latest Supreme Court term was seen as a shift to the left. The high court rewrote Obamacare to save the president’s landmark legislation to socialize American health care and completed a social revolution by nationalizing gay marriage. These decisions set off a flurry of promises from Republican Party presidential candidates to confront the judiciary.

Extreme Measures

Jeb Bush said he would only appoint judges “with a proven record of judicial restraint,” even though previous presidents claiming to do the same chose Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, and John Roberts, among many other conservative disappointments.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) called for judicial retention elections. Such a change at the federal level would require a constitutional amendment, though it would mimic the practices of some 20 states. Even more controversially, Cruz suggested that only those whose case was brought before the justices had to respect Supreme Court rulings.

Extreme measures seem necessary because a simultaneously progressive and activist judiciary has joined the legislature and executive in forthrightly making public policy.

Should Justices Serve for Life?

The influence of judges has been magnified by their relative immunity from political pressure. Although the courts sometimes follow the election returns, in many cases — such as abortion and gay marriage — judicial decisions have short-circuited normal political discourse.

That fact alone makes judicial appointments important. Their significance is magnified by judges’ life tenure.

Lose the battle over filling a Supreme Court slot and you may suffer the consequences for decades. Gerald Ford’s unelected presidency merits little more than a historical footnote, but his Supreme Court legacy long persisted through Justice John Paul Stevens, a judicial ideologue hostile to liberty in most forms. Republicans going back to Dwight Eisenhower publicly lamented the evolution of their appointees, and every one of them made at least one choice that ultimately advanced a big-government agenda. Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts fill that role today.

Lifetime tenure has other consequences. The appointment process is endlessly arbitrary, as judges hang on, irrespective of advancing age. Although instances of obvious infirmity are few — the last clear Supreme Court case was William O. Douglas, who served more than 36 years before retiring in 1975 — outcomes should not be affected by actuarial tables. A gerontocratic court differs dramatically from the society on behalf of which its members purport to speak. The lack of turnover also may deaden court debate, reinforcing established patterns of thinking.

Life tenure is enshrined in the Constitution and rooted in history. The justification for lifetime appointment is to insulate the courts from transient political pressures. Some such protection is necessary if judges are to feel free to make unpopular decisions upholding the nation’s fundamental law.

Yet, judicial independence does not require lack of accountability. Judges are supposed to play a limited though vital role: interpreting, not transforming, the law. The dichotomy of activism versus restraint is the wrong prism for viewing judges. They should be active in enforcing the law, striking down legislation, and vindicating rights when required by the Constitution. They should be restrained in substituting their policy preferences for those of elected representatives.

When jurists violate this role, as do so many judges, they should be held accountable. Unfortunately, many of the proposed responses are more dangerous than the judges themselves. For instance, limiting court jurisdiction or impeaching errant jurists, oft proposed in the past, provides obvious opportunities for abuse. Worse is Cruz’s idea that most people should ignore the Supreme Court. Where government branches collide, someone must have a final say, or else the result will be enduring political conflict and limited legal legitimacy.

Ignore the Court?

More important, Cruz would presumably not want politicians to ignore court rulings with which he agreed. After all, as originally conceived, the judiciary was tasked with the critical role of holding the executive and legislative branches accountable, limiting their propensity to exceed their bounds and abuse the people. For instance, Alexander Hamilton imagined independent courts playing a “peculiarly essential” role to safeguard liberties and being an “excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body.” Indeed, he contended, the judiciary would “guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals” from “the people themselves.”

Thomas Jefferson argued that judges would provide a “legal check” on political majorities. James Madison, often viewed as the father of the Constitution, predicted that

independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of [Bill of Rights guarantees]; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive; they will be naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the constitution by the declaration of rights.

Of course, all too often the judiciary fails to fulfill this role today. No less than the presidents and congressmen, judges have become avid advocates of statism. Jurists as well as politicians should be held accountable. Unreviewable power is always dangerous.

Throw the Bums Out?

Some 20 states have implemented Cruz’s second idea, of retention elections. Few judges are defenestrated, but on occasion, the results are dramatic. Three decades ago, California voters ousted three state supreme court jurists who had effectively repealed the death penalty. In 2010, Iowa voters defeated three state supreme court judges who ruled in favor of gay marriage.

National judicial elections, however, would be far more problematic. Should the decision be made via national vote or by a majority of state votes? Moreover, it is hard to believe that Americans who today choose their president based on 30-second television spots would pay serious attention to esoteric legal issues and make the fine distinctions characteristic of legal and constitutional analysis. Worse, judicial votes might reinforce the reigning political consensus, allowing majorities to remove justices most prepared to enforce the constitution against those in power. Unfortunately, further politicizing the judiciary would be an uncertain means of counteracting the problem of a politicized judiciary.

There is a better alternative.

The Solution: Fixed Terms

The Constitution should be amended to authorize fixed terms for federal judges. Perhaps one term of 10 or 12 years for Supreme Court justices, though Federalist Society founder Steve Calabresi suggested 18-year terms. Another option would be a renewable term of 6 or 8 years. Staggering terms would ensure every president at least a couple of appointments. Mixing short and long terms would expand diversity.

Such an approach would offer several advantages. While every appointment would remain important, judicial nominations would no longer be as likely to become political Armageddon. The new justice’s service would be bounded with his exit from office already set, and another appointment would be due a couple of years later.

Term limits also would ensure a steady transformation of the court’s membership. New additions at regular intervals would encourage intellectual as well as physical rejuvenation of the court. No longer would justices attempt to desperately hang on in order to outlast a president of another party. Law rather than health would determine the pace of judicial appointments.

Most important, fixed terms would establish judicial accountability. Justices still would be independent, largely immune to political retaliation for their decisions. Thus, if so inclined, they still could “resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the constitution by the declaration of rights.”

Nevertheless, abusive judges would no longer serve for life. Elective officials could reassert control over the court without destroying the judicial institution. There would be no court-packing, a la Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as transformation would take time, over two or three presidencies.

The Supreme Court has become as consequential as the presidency in making public policy. Indeed, contrary to their originally envisioned role, judges have become as likely as politicians to push to expand state power and limit individual liberty. It is necessary to find a way to impose accountability while preserving independence. Appointing judges to fixed terms would simultaneously achieve both objectives.


Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of a number of books on economics and politics. He writes regularly on military non-interventionism.

Illinois Judges Block Citizens from Voting on Term Limits in November 2014 General Election

U.S. Term Limits Senior Fellow Paul Jacob once called the citizen initiative process “the political lifeblood of the people.”

“Without initiative and referendum the politicians can ignore the people and monopolize power,” he added.

Nowhere are Paul’s words more relevant right now than in the state of Illinois, where a citizen committee collected over 590,000 signatures to place a term limits and legislative reform question on the November ballot. If passed, it would have enacted solid eight-year term limits on the Illinois State House and State Senate and cut back on the overall size of the General Assembly.

But that was not to be. Last week, a corrupt alliance of career politicians and activist judges made sure that the term limits initiative would not appear on the ballot. After allies of 29-year Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan filed a lawsuit against the measure, a circuit court judge ruled it unconstitutional. Then an appeals court concurred with the county judge, and the state Supreme Court refused to hear a final appeal.

The judges, all with political ties to the Speaker, claimed the reforms didn’t make “structural and procedural changes” to the legislature. If term limits and altering the size of a legislative body aren’t “structural and procedural” fixes, then nothing will ever meet the definition. Clearly, this was a case of legislators exploiting any loophole they could find to delay the inevitable.

Now, citizens of the nation’s third most corrupt state are livid. Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who also led the term limits initiative committee, tells voters in a new ad to take out their frustrations on Madigan and current Governor Pat Quinn at the ballot box.

Bruce Rauner is Chair of the Term Limits and Reform Committee and a candidate for Governor.

Elections are not term limits, so it remains to be seen whether citizens have the ability to throw out the political machine come November. If elected, Rauner will be able to push for a legislative referral on term limits or a rewrite of the state’s initiative law. Either option could be the magic bullet the state needs to finally free itself from career politicians.

The insider-dominated political atmosphere in Illinois is a cautionary tale for Congress and other states weighing whether to keep or enact term limits. A small group of leaders with indefinite terms will always block reforms that threaten its own power. Under term limits, surrender of power is structurally and procedurally a part of the legislature. Citizens have access to the lawmaking process without fear that self-interest will block the door.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is of Michael Madigan who has been Speaker of the Illinois House for 29 of the past 31 years. it was his associates who filed a lawsuit against the term limits and reform amendment.

Florida: Pinellas County Commissioner Roche Stands with Voters on Term Limits

norm_roche_pinellas

Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche.

Distinguishing himself from his corrupt peers, Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche is launching his first re-election campaign with a promise to abide by the county’s voter-approved 8-year term limits.

As reported earlier, Pinellas is the only county in Florida that refuses to enforce its county commission term limits, even after the unanimous 2012 Supreme Court decision that such limits are constitutional.  While term-limited Pinellas Commissioners Susan Latvala, Karen Seel, John Morroni and Ken Welch continue to battle the people in the courts, they also continue to serve on the commission.

Roche, on the other hand, told the Tampa Bay Times in their 2014 candidate questionnaire that he promises to “to honor my pledge to adhere to the will of the voters on term limits and only seek two terms.”

Pinellas County commission term limits were approved by 72 percent of the voters in 1996. Per the county charter Article VI Sec. 6-02 (3): “If approved by a majority of those electors voting on the amendment at the general election, the amendment shall become effective on the date specified in the amendment, or, if not so specified, on January 1 of the succeeding year.”

While a court can invalidate an amendment, there is no leeway here for the commissioners to do so by themselves. Recognizing this, Roche deserves credit for adhering to the people’s clearly expressed will even at his own expense.

Florida: Court collision pushing Pinellas Term Limits case toward Supreme Court

Crash!

The April 16 decision by the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeals excusing Pinellas County from enforcing its voter-approved 8-year county commission term limits law collided head on with a 2011 decision from the 4th DCA which required that they be enforced. Indeed, after the Florida Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the 4th DCA decision, every county in Florida is enforcing their county term limits except Pinellas.

Why is Pinellas so special?  In its April 16 decision, the 2nd DCA did  not answer that question. In fact, its only response was: “Affirmed.” No explanation was given at all!

That won’t do. It is pretty clear this case must be settled in the Florida Supreme Court as the conflict between the two decisions are so stark.  Must counties enforce their voter-approved charter amendments or not?

It is an important question that affects all 20 of Florida’s charter — or ‘home rule’ — counties, not just the 12 whose voters have opted to impose term limits on their county politicians.

On this basis, the Pinellas citizens who have been defending the Pinellas term limits law in court have filed for a rehearing, requesting the court revisit its decision or at least provide an explanation that they can bring to the Supreme Court.

It is difficult to see what the defense the county politicians have. The case set out in the good guys’ Motion for Clarification appears incontrovertible:

  1. Voters overwhelmingly approved 8-year term limits on county commissioners and constitutional officers in 1996.
  2. In Cook (2002),  the Florida Supreme Court (in a split decision) struck down the term limits on constitutional officers, but did not address county commission term limits.
  3. The Pinellas charter’s severability clause (7.01) clearly provides that if one section of the charter is found unconstitutional, others survive.
  4. As an example of this under Florida law, Florida voters approved in 1992 term limits on both federal Congress members and state legislators. When the U.S. Supreme Court shot down Congressional term limits in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (1995), the Congressional term limits were nullified but — per Florida’s Ray v. Mortham (1999) — the state legislative term limits still stand.
  5. In 2011-12, the 4th DCA and then the Florida Supreme Court both unanimously affirmed the constitutionality of county commission term limits and also reversed their earlier decision regarding constitutional officer term limits as well.
  6. All Florida county term limits on the books today have been ruled constitutional and are being enforced, except in Pinellas County. There is no reason why Pinellas should be treated differently.

Due to the conflict between the DCAs, appellants Maria Scruggs and H. Patrick Wheeler argue the 2nd DCA owes the public — and the Supremes — an explanation. If we get one, it will be due to the hard work and personal sacrifice of these two individuals.

FL Rep. Keith Perry’s attack on term limits stirs controversy in his hometown

In Sunday’s Gainesville Sun, I make the case in an op-ed that Rep. Keith Perry’s (R-Gainesville) bill to weaken Florida term limits from eight to 12 years is an effort to benefit legislators at the expense of citizens.

“The results during Florida’s term limits era have been good. Legislatures are like marriages, in that they are all dysfunctional in their own special way. But some are definitely better than others — and Florida’s is pretty good. In a 2013 ranking of states by their fiscal condition — an outcome highly influenced by government policy — the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranked Florida as sixth in the nation. Incidentally, five of the top 10 states in this ranking have eight-year term limits on their legislatures. So, it must be asked again, why is Rep. Perry launching this attack on eight-year term limits?”

The answer isn’t flattering to Rep. Perry. Perry is a successful businessman who got the opportunity to run because Speaker Larry Cretul reached his 8-year limit in the House. Now, it appears Rep. Perry wants to cut the ladder off beneath him.

Perry rationalizes this in a straight piece in today’s Gainesville Sun.  He claims eight years isn’t sufficient to master the complexities of being a Florida legislator. Eight-year limits are, however, the most common in the United States from the president, to governors, to state legislatures, to county commissioners and mayors. He does not explain what makes being a Florida legislator so particularly daunting.

Hint: It isn’t.

Fortunately, I was provided a chance to respond. “Blumel said that when politicians say eight years is too short, people should keep in mind that the Florida Senate is made up of many former members of the state House of Representatives who possess considerable legislative experience, while the lower chamber has more political newcomers who provide better representation of the citizenry.”

Instead of focusing on the centerpiece of the legislation, the weakening of term limits, Perry instead focuses on the fact the bill also lengthens the terms themselves from two to four in the House and four to six in the Senate. But these are just window dressing. Legislators have tried to loosen their limits numerous times and continue to test new angles to slip this idea by voters.

Perhaps the best quote in the article isn’t by Rep. Perry or me. It is by Alachua County Democratic Party Chairman Robert Prather.

“We’re disappointed that Rep. Perry seems more interested in protecting jobs in Tallahassee… than … Gainesville, Alachua County and Dixie,” Prather said.

For the complete articles, see Blumel op-ed and Perry news article.

TAKE ACTION: Politicians Attacking Florida’s Voter-Approved Term Limits Law

This month, Representative Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) introduced a bill to lengthen his own term limits from a maximum of eight years in one seat all the way up to twelve.

This is a direct attack on we the people of Florida, who passed those term limits with 77 percent of the vote and support them by an even greater margin today, according to polls.

By trying to overrule the peoples’ vote on term limits, Perry is focusing on keeping his own seat, rather than finding solutions to the problems Florida faces.

We say that if eight years are good enough for the President of the United States, then they’re good enough for the gang in Tallahassee.

Here’s how you can help us defend term limits in Florida:

  • Call Rep. Perry at 850-717-5021 to tell him you support the current term limits and don’t want his bad bill becoming a bad law.
  • Contact your House member and State Senator to tell them to oppose this proposal.
  • Write a letter to the editor of the Gainesville Sun or your local newspaper opposing Rep. Perry’s plan to weaken term limits

Pinellas citizens continue to challenge corrupt commissioners

The following is courtesy of the Florida Term Limits blog:

According to a 2012 study, Florida is the most corrupt state in the United States based on the number of state officials convicted on federal public corruption charges.

“Florida faces a corruption crisis that threatens the state’s reputation, its economy and its ability to attract new jobs and capital,” wrote study authors Dan Krassner and Ben Wilcox.

This should come as no surprise to Pinellas County residents, who are governed by four county commissioners in defiance of the county’s voter-approved 8-year term limits law. After the term limits amendment was approved by 73% of voters in 1996, commissioners refused to insert the amendment into the county charter even after it was validated by a district court in 1999 and the state Supreme Court in 2012.

That it was their duty to do so is beyond question. Per charter Article VI Sec. 6-02 (3): “If approved by a majority of those electors voting on the amendment at the general election, the amendment shall become effective on the date specified in the amendment, or, if not so specified, on January 1 of the succeeding year.” While a court has the power to invalidate an amendment, there is no leeway here for commissioners alone to refuse to accept the vote of the people.

After a commissioner-friendly local court refused to grant relief, Pinellas citizens are now appealing to the Second District Court of Appeals to have their votes finally counted. On Sept. 30, appellants H. Patrick Wheeler and Maria Scruggs filed their Initial Brief to the Lakeland court.

The filing is against Susan Latvala, John Morroni, Kenneth Welch and Karen Seel, the four commissioners who cling to their power and paychecks in defiance of law. Among other things, the brief documents their ill-gotten gains, including annual salaries of close to $100,000 when including expenses. It also points out the commissioners are using taxpayer money to invalidate the clearly expressed will of those same taxpayers.

Smoking gun: Pinellas commissioners conceded on term limits in 2000

Philip Blumel from Florida Term Limits Blog reports:

A smoking gun has been uncovered in the Pinellas term limits case and the defendant’s’ fingerprints are all over it.

You may recall that Pinellas County Commission and constitutional officer term limits passed with 73 percent of the vote in 1996, but the county refused to insert the amendment into their charter as clearly required by the law due to its alleged constitutional ambiguity.

The county commission and the five constitutional officers sued the voters to get the amendment overturned. The district court denied them, upholding the constitutionality of the term limits.

The constitutional officers continued their suit and requested authorization to add the Pinellas County Commission to the appeal. However, the minutes of the 5/30/00 county commission meeting — uncovered via a FOIA request on behalf of plaintiffs in the ongoing case to force commissioners to comply with the law — clearly show that the Pinellas County Commission chose not to participate.

According to the above document, County Attorney Susan H. Churuti advised the commission of their options and the process of becoming appellants. But, the document says, “following discussion, Commissioner [and current defendant Karen] Seel moved, seconded by Commissioner Parks and carried, that the county commission do nothing and let the ruling stand.”

The constitutional officers went all the way to the Supreme Court, alone. This is why only constitutional officer term limits were reviewed in the split 2002 Cook decision that declared constitutional officer limits to be unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court never tackled the issue of county commission term limits until 2012 when it unanimously declared them to be constitutional. For good measure, the Supremes overturned Cook at the same time, declaring without ambiguity that charter county voters have the right to impose term limits on their public servants.

Since then, 10 of the 11 charter counties with county commission term limits are obeying the law. Most of them always did. Only Pinellas — after losing at the district level and then at the Florida Supreme Court — continues to defy the voters and the law.

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Philip Blumel is president of U.S. Term Limits, a single-issue advocacy group based in Fairfax, VA, and a certified financial planner working out of downtown West Palm Beach, FL.