Amended county commissioner term limit bill advances, but pushback persists

by | Feb 27, 2024

The Florida Senate Rules Committee approved a bill proposing eight-year term limits for county commissioners, which now proceeds to a full Senate vote.

The Florida Senate Rules Committee on Monday advanced a bill that could introduce term limits for county commissioners throughout the state.

Senate Bill 438, carried by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia and now headed for a full Senate vote, proposes that county commissioners who have served eight years would be ineligible for immediate reelection. The restriction would also extend to those seeking different seats within the same county commission, barring such moves until two years after the conclusion of their initial term.

The bill specifies that for counties without existing term limits as outlined in their county charters by July 1, 2024, any service terms for county commissioners that started before November 3, 2022, will not be included in the new eight-year term limit. Moreover, if a county charter imposes stricter term limits than those proposed by the state, the more restrictive local rule would be adopted.

The measure further stipulates that a county whose charter contains term limits for county commissioners in excess of 8 years must hold a referendum on November 5, 2024, as to whether the county should prohibit commissioners from serving longer than 8 consecutive years.

However, the proposal has faced criticism, especially from representatives of smaller counties who argue that it addresses a non-existent problem and infringes on local autonomy.

“As much as you all don’t like Washington to come to Tallahassee telling you all how to do things, we don’t think Tallahassee should tell us how to do our homework,” said Rocky Ford, a District Commissioner in Columbia County. “If I’ve got a good commissioner who takes my place, and he’s in his 20s and 30s, and he’s doing a great job for my district, why would I want to replace him and eight years if he’s doing a great job? It’s hard to find qualified people in a small county, especially when you’re elected district wide.”

Putnam County Commissioner Larry Harvey added that heir communities have not expressed a desire for such term limits and view the state-level imposition as unnecessary.

“This is not an issue,” he said. “All we’re trying to do now is disrupt the system for no reason at all. We’re trying to take good people at office. I can be removed anytime, for any reason. Right now. It’s not a problem. But we need to not throw the heavy hand on local elections.”

Passed in an 18 to 2 vote, Senators Ed Hooper and Colleen Burton were the lone dissenters. The House companion bill, filed by Rep. Michelle Salzman, has advanced through each of its committee stops and is slated for a full vote in the lower chamber.


%d bloggers like this: