In an earlier post, I marveled at the arrogance of the Sarasota county commission in its treatment of Sarasota’s voter-approved 8-year term limits law. But this week, the commission brought political hubris to a shocking new level.
To recap, Sarasota voters in 1998 approved 8-year term limits for their county commissioners. As these were about to go into effect, a commissioner or commissioners – via a disinterested citizen, of course – filed suit and got a local judge to knock down the law as “unconstitutional.” Then, in a clear case of putting their personal self interest above the clearly expressed will of the voters at the ballot box, the commission voted unanimously in 2005 not to defend the voter-approved law and to appeal the decision. Term limits remained in the charter, but were not enforced.
Currently, the highest Florida court that has looked at the issue says that county commission term limits are constitutional and, indeed, they are enforced everywhere else except Sarasota County.
As it is widely expected the Florida Supreme Court will uphold the Constitutionality of county commission term limits before the 2012 elections, the county commission is already planning its next counterattack. Rather than letting the voter-approved 8-year term limits go into effect, they are floating the idea of a new referendum to abolish the 8-year term limits and replace them with new 12-year term limits with a new (that is, another) grandfather period of 12 years!
Naturally, the commissioners are not citing their self-interest in floating this proposal, but instead claim they are trying to avoid “confusion” and potential litigation.
But the fact is that 8-year term limits have been passed in accordance with the law. When the Supreme Court affirms that fact, the term limits should be enforced. There is no confusion except that which the commission creates. And there is no fear of litigation if the commissioners or one of their cronies don’t sue the voters, again. So, don't.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
In 1998, 68 percent of Sarasota voters imposed 8-year term limits. In 2009, polling from Quinnipiac University shows that 73 percent of Southwest Florida respondents opposed weakening state legislative term limits from 8 to 12 years.
To weigh in today on whether you support the current voter-approved 8-year term limit or a new 12-year limit with a new 12-year grandfathering period, please see the poll at the top corner of this page, http://flatermlimits.blogspot.com/.