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.
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.
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.