School board term limits initiative advances in the House

by | Jan 29, 2020

Legislation that could place a constitutional amendment on November’s ballot to put in place term limits on school board members across the state cleared its second hearing on Wednesday.

The measure (HJR 157), introduced by Representative Anthony Sabatini, was approved today in the Oversight, Transparency, and Public Management committee with a 10-5 vote.

The legislation now has one final stop before the House floor, and if successful would allow Florida voters to keep board members from serving more than eight consecutive years in office.

“School Board Term Limits are a bi-partisan way to drain the swamp,” Sabatini said following Wednesday’s vote.

The proposal by the Howey-in-the-Hills conservative has received immense praise on both sides of the political aisle. Many of Sabatini’s Republican colleagues cosponsored the bill, and a companion bill (SJR 1480) in the Senate was introduced by Democratic Senator Lauren Book.

The measure also has the support of Governor Ron DeSantis, who endorsed Sabatini’s bill in 2019 and did so again in when the lawmaker refiled the bill for 2020.

“The benefits of term limits are clear,” DeSantis said. “When an elected official is first seated, he or she comes in with a reformer spirit and desire to deliver change. But perpetual re-election tends to erode that public service outlook and replace it with one of entitlement. Long tenure in office tends to make people forget they work for us, and not the other way around.”

Both bills were lauded by U.S. Term Limits (USTL), a Florida-based group spearheading a national term limits movement.

“Education is too important to be entrusted to self-serving career politicians,” said Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits. “Eight-year term limits will put a check on corruption, stymie special interests and allow for fresh faces to emerge. We applaud Sen. Book and Rep. Sabatini for stepping up to give the people of Florida a vote on term limits.”

Not only do state officials and groups support the amendment. An overwhelming number of Floridians are in favor of placing limits on career politicians. According to a 2018 poll by McLaughlin & Associates, 82 percent of Florida voters said they support a constitutional amendment term limiting all school board members to eight years. The poll includes backing from 85 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of independent voters.

If approved by both and House and Senate, the proposal would go on the 2020 ballot, where 60 percent voter support would be required for passage.


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