Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sarasota County Commission launches counterattack against voter-approved 8-year term limits

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.



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,


  1. NO! If the President can only do 8 years at the most then commissioners shouldn't be allowed any more than 8 years either. We shouldn't have to be punished with 12 years of poor judgement when a commissioner proves to be less than what he or she promised to be!

  2. Check this out. The commissioners' excuses for their 12-year term limit fraud are hilarious:

    Of the 10 Florida counties with term limits, NINE have 8-year term limits. So when they say they want 12-year limits to clear up 'confusion' or 'legal chaos' they are blowing smoke in our faces. They want 12-year limits (and particularly 12-year grandfather period) for their benefit, not ours.

  3. What a joke. What a transparent power grab. At least the Commission does something with transparency.

  4. There are no term limits in Sarasota county. THis is our best way to get term limits. We need to send a message to the supreme court that we support term limits.

  5. In fact, term limits have been approved by the vote of the people of Sarasota county. The commissioners are attempting to manipulate and circumvent the law. We must not let this happen. In their security and arrogance they have skewed the budget, cutting funds for teachers, policeman and firemen, apparently to convince us they need even more money. All the while they have mismanaged the budget, spending millions on wasteful, unnecessary and extravagant projects. We the voters, must speak up. Insist on term limits and a sound, well managed budget!

  6. We voted on term limits in Pinellas county and we don't have them yet...the Board of Elections in Pinellas interpreted the latest ruling as a precedent and Pinellas does not apply! The citizens have a Facebook page under Save Pinellas and they are garnering support to ask the commissioners to do the right thing and just add what we voted for....