Thursday, December 27, 2012

Powerful term limits foe arrested in stolen identity scheme

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune called him "the most powerful political player in Sarasota County politics," but former county GOP Chair Bob Waechter has earned a new and far less flattering tagline after his arrest this month in an indentity theft scheme apparently aimed at embarrassing political opponents.

The Sarasota Sheriff's office said Waechter was charged with the criminal use of a stolen identity for allegedly buying  a prepaid debit card  to make campaign donations to Democrats in the name of a rival Republican.
See the full story from the Herald-Tribune here.

Veterans of the battle in Sarasota County over their popular voter-approved 8-year term limits law recall Waechter as a vocal opponent of term limits who championed a new referendum in 2011 to abolish the 8-year limits and replace them with new 12-year limits after a 12-year waiting period. The commission retreated from that plan after a public outcry.

Term limits "put the county at risk of losing a very experienced county commission," he told the Tiger Bay Club in October 2011.

"A lot of things have changed since 1998," when voters approved 8-year term limits with 68% of the vote, Waechter said.

Indeed they have.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Judge: Pinellas term limits has merit, will proceed

Pinellas county commissioners who refuse to comply with Pinellas County's voter-approved 8-year term limits law are in denial. They had hoped for a summary dismissal as the citizen's case as 'frivolous.'
But on Nov. 28, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge John A. Schaefer refused to dismiss the suit, suggesting that citizens may be correct that Commissioners Ken Welch, Susan Latvala, John Morroni and Karen Seel are serving on the Pinellas Commission in violation of the county charter.
In 1996, some 73 percent of Pinellas voters approved an 8-year term limits law which, according the Pinellas Charter, went into effect on Jan. 1, 1997. This gave commissioners an additional eight years in office before the term limit kicked in. However, commissioners refused to insert the term limits language into the charter and eight years later commissioners refused to leave.

Commissioners justified their rebellion by claiming county commission term limits are unconstitutional, citing a 2002 case in which the Supreme Court of Florida found term limits on constitutional officers to be unconstitutional.  Relying on this interpretation, they simply ignored a local Pinellas court decision in 2000 to the contrary without even bothering to appeal it!

The only trouble with the constitutionality excuse is that the Supreme Court never ruled on the issue of county commission term limits and when it did, in May of this year, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that, yes, county commission term limits are constitutional and always were. The Supremes even went so far as to overturn their previous split decision on constitutional officers. Oops.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, three Pinellas residents connected with Save Pinellas filed a suit to compel compliance with the term limits provision in the charter.

In yesterday's decision, the judge ruled that the Supervisor of Elections must be dropped from the suit and other minor changes, but that the core of the complaint had merit. It  is unlikely there will be any resolution of this until at least Spring 2013.

If the lawsuit is successful, the governor would have to appoint four new people to fill the vacant seats until the next election.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2012 ELECTIONS: Florida joins national term limits sweep

Term limits won nearly everywhere they appeared on the ballot in the United States and Florida was part of the national trend.

Across the nation, term limits won in approximately 97% of the jurisdications where the idea appeared on the ballot, with voters either establishing new limits or protecting existing ones from attacks by incumbent politicians.

The big news in Florida is that the largest county in the state overwhelmingly adopted 8-year county commission term limits. Miami-Dade is the 12th of Florida's 20 charter counties to adopt term limits.

Meanwhile in Pinellas County commissioners continue to use taxpayer money to defend themselves from that county's voter-approved 8-year term limits law. But a judge will entertain a motion this week (Nov. 28) to summarily rule against the commissioners.

If you know of any other term limits measures in Florida on Nov. 6, please pass the info along and I will update the list:

BROOKSVILLE, FL -- Weaken 8-year term city council limits
28% YES

DUNEDIN, FL -- Places 8-year term limits on mayor and city council
NO 30%

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FL -- Establish 8-year county commission term limits
NO 23%

Thursday, October 11, 2012

MIAMI HERALD: Vote YES on county term limits!

The Miami Herald this week urged Miami-Dade residents to make their home the 12th of Florida's 20 home rule counties to embrace county commission term limits.

Under the headline, "Term Limits Should get the Nod," the Herald editorial board notes that of the seven charter amendments Miami-Dade citizens will be considering in November, the first -- eight-year county commisison term limits -- is the "most important."

They are right.

Nearly all of the large counties in the state -- including Orange, Hillsborough, Broward, Palm Beach Duval and Pinellas -- have taken this step.  While a good reform in any county, it is most important in the larger ones where special interests are larger, more powerful and more entrenched.

Term limits help ensure more competitive elections, offer greater citizen participation, bring real-world experience to the commission, spread power more equally across the single-member districts, sever the cozy relationships between special interests and incumbents, increases transparency, reduces corruption and increases the pool of those with an intimate knowledge of local government.

In other words, term limits bring government closer to the people.

Voters have turned down term limits before, because the commissioners linked them to other serve-serving measures and term limits reformers urged voters to reject the crooked package deals. But this time, the charter amendment calls for two 4-year terms and then county commissioners are not eligible to run again. That's all.

No tricks. No small print. You know what to do.
d more here:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

House candidate Hasner makes 'commitment' to term limits

As mentioned earlier, Adam Hasner has made term limits a central issue in the battle for Florida's District 22 House seat. In his standard campaign brochure, Hasner lists as commitments "supporting Congressional term limits, opposing Congressional pay increases and refusing a Congressional pension."

He reiterates these commitments on his website here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

South Florida House contestants Hasner, Frankel spar over term limits

Term Limits are showing up as a key issue in yet another Congressional race, this one in South Florida's 22nd House district.

In one corner is the term-limited former mayor of West Palm Beach, Lois Frankel, who launched a series of political machinations in 2010 to overturn the city's voter-approved 8-year term limits law. Failing in the face of a public uproar, she announced her candidacy instead for the U.S. Congress.

In the other corner is term-limited former Florida State House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who worked in a term limited legislature and concluded that the U.S. Congress should be term limited too. Hasner is a signatory of the U.S. Term Limits pledge to cosponsor and vote for Congressional term limits if elected. Beyond this he has pledged to limit his own terms and includes his support for the popular reform prominently in his campaign literature.

In this clip above, Hasner makes his case for term limits. Frankel starts to make a case against, but careens into babble when she accidentally starts to undermine her own argument. Michele Kirk of South Florida's BIZPAC Review tells the full story here.

Polling shows this one to be close, with Democrat Frankel a few points ahead in this Democrat-leaning district. Given the popularity of term limits in Palm Beach County, Hasner is heading into the finish waving the term limits flag which has proven effective in 2012 for other upstarts with credibility on this issue. And Hasner's got that.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

BE THERE: Save Pinellas term limits forum Sept. 8

The Save Pinellas County committee is coming to North Pinellas this weekend to tell the story of the rebellion of their county commissioners against the 8-year term limits law and the citizens who approved the law overwhelmingly in 1996.

The public forum will be held in Oldsmar, Fla., at 1 p.m. Saturday Sept. 8 at the Action Center in the Woodland Square Shopping Center, 3150 Tampa Road #16, on the Curlew Road side of the center.

The plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit against the commissioners on behalf of the people will be on hand to answer questions and let their neighbors know how they can help restore the rule of law in Pinellas County.

If you cannot attend but would like to make a monetary donation to the lawsuit effort, please send a check to Save Pinellas, 1028 Peninsula Avenue, Tarpon Springs, Fla., 34689.

For more information, see the Save Pinellas Facebook page, call (727) 744-6059 or (727) 919-3523 or email

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tampa Bay Times sees the light on Pinellas term limits

Last week's court decision out of Duval County has turned on the lights in Pinellas. All of a sudden the idea of enforcing Pinellas County terms limits is moving from dismissible to inevitable in the eyes of the county's politicos and opinion-makers.

As reported here, a Duval County judge on Friday ruled against the Duval County Clerk of Courts who was trying to run for a fourth term in spite of Duval's County voter-approved term limits law. The judge pointed to the Supreme Court's May ruling that county term limits are constitutional and -- in no uncertain terms -- declared Clerk Jim Fuller ineligible to run again.

Fuller's argument was the same one being used by Pinellas County politicians defying the Pinellas County term limits law. Click! The light bulb went off over the head of John Romano, columnist for the Tampa Bay Times.

From today's column:

"The county's attorneys are arguing that Pinellas has some unique circumstances and is not subject to the same rules and interpretations the rest of the state is facing.

"I do not pretend to understand the legal nuances involved, but I'm getting the feeling that the county's defense is about as potent as the Rays' offense.

"A ruling handed down by a Duval County judge last week seemed to shoot a lot of holes in the same kind of arguments Pinellas County folks have been raising in recent months.

"The judge said the term limits applied retroactively to Duval's clerk of courts, as opposed to the clock starting with the Supreme Court ruling in May. That doesn't bode well for Pinellas."

Actually, it bodes very well for the citizens of Pinellas, who overwhelmingly voted for term limits and continue to support them. One hopes the clinging commissioners will put the county ahead of their selfish interests and resign before the integrity of the upcoming elections become irredeemable.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"What can I do to defend Pinellas' voter-approved term limits law?"

When faced with the refusal of Pinellas County commissioners to adhere to the voter-approved 8-year term limits law, many citizens react with a frustrated shrug. What can you do?

Fortunately, there is a lot a citizen can do -- and it is worth doing. Politicians in many of the 11 Florida charter counties that approved term limits tried to wiggle free of their limits using lawyers and obfuscation. But citizens rallied around their law and in every county except Pinellas (so far) they have been successful.

Here's how you can help:
  • Firmly but politely ask each commissioner to respect the law and resign. You can send an email to all four scofflaws (Latvala, Morroni, Seel and Welch) here.
  • Urge Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark to do her job and refuse to accept applications for reelection by term-limited candidates. Her office's email address is
  • Educate the public by downloading, copying and distributing these palm flyers (pictured above) that tell the Pinellas term limits story in a nutshell.If the newspapers aren't telling the story yet, it is up to us.
  • Send the link around to this blog ( and ask your family and friends to participate in the poll (upper right-hand corner of page).
  • Educate yourself. Keep up with the latest developments of this case by becoming a friend on the Save Pinellas Facebook page. Also, sign up for email updates from this blog. See the sign up box in the right-hand column of this page, just below the poll.
  • Contribute money to pay for the lawsuit demanding compliance with the law. We can either roll over or fight fire with fire. Donations can be made payable and mailed to Save Pinellas, c/o 1028 Peninsula Ave., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689.
Evil will triumph if good men and women do nothing. Let's get to work.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Judge: Duval clerk ineligible due to term limits

In May, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that county commission term limits are constitutional and also receded from its 2002 decision in Cook that term limits on constitutional officers are unconstitutional. The message from the court that day couldn’t be clearer: county term limits in Florida are constitutional.

Nonetheless, Duval County Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller didn’t get it. Fuller continued to campaign for his fourth term in office in violation of Duval County term limits law.

Naturally he was sued. And today Judge William Wilkes ruled that Fuller is not above the law. He is ineligible and must drop out of the race.

As a constitutional officer, Fuller’s term limit had been nullified by the Supreme Court’s Cook case in 2002 but this year’s Telli case "reactivated" it, Judge Wilkes ruled. Fuller said he would not appeal the decision.

"I think the court fully and properly applied the decision in the Telli case,” Duval County attorney Michael Wedner told the Florida Times-Union.

Today’s ruling turns the spotlight on Pinellas County, where four county commissioners continue to defy voter-approved county commission term limits.

Voters approved the 8-year limits on the county commission and constitutional officers in 1996 by 72 percent of the vote. As in Duval, the Cook decision temporarily nullified the term limits on constitutional officers.

Pinellas County Commissioners have long and erroneously argued that the Cook decision did apply to county commissioner term limits as well. The commission never tested this novel interpretation in court. But now that the Supreme Court has receded from Cook, that argument is kaput. Their new claim per Pinellas County Attorney Jim Bennett is that May's Supreme Court decision in Telli does not apply to Pinellas because the court's ruling only applies "prospectively" not "retroactively."

Today's ruling in Jacksonville explicitly tosses that flimsy argument out the window:

Judge Wilkes: "The Florida's Supreme Court decision in Telli has in effect revived a dormant section [of the charter]. No legislative action must be taken for [the] section ... to take effect."

Three citizens have launched the Save Pinellas lawsuit in Pinellas County to compel the commission and supervisor of elections to comply with the voter-approved law. Get involved!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Polk citizens celebrate victory over arrogant commissioners

It is a new day in Polk County, where voter-approved term limits continue to function without the cloud of a commission-led legal effort hanging above them.

As one citizen, Craig Foster of Winter Haven, noted in a letter to the The Ledger, just prior to this week's primary elections:

"August 14 will be an historic moment in Polk County. We will be replacing two county commissioners because the citizens of our county united a second time to impose term limits upon them.

"Those very commissioners spent our own tax dollars against us. As The Ledger reported, the commission used the office of the county attorney to fight us. But we prevailed."


Now there is only one county left in the state of Florida that continues to battle its citizens over term limits: Pinellas.

We will win if we put up a fight. Please help! Here's a list of ways you can help restore rule of law in Pinellas County.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Corrupt Pinellas commissioners defy voter-approved term limits

Of the 20 charter counties in Florida, voters in 11 have overwhelmingly approved term limits for their county commissions. Ten of them recognize and respect the law.

The exception is Pinellas County.

In 1996, 73 percent of voters in Pinellas approved a countywide referendum that limited their county commissioners and county constitutional officers to eight years in office. Since then, a split Florida Supreme Court in Cook (2002) decided that counties don’t have the right to impose term limits on constitutional officers. But the Pinellas County commission decided the Cook decision applied to them as well even though the Supreme Court never ruled on commissioner limits in Cook or any other decision.

Until this year. In May, the Supreme Court not only clearly affirmed the constitutionality of county commissioner term limits, but also overturned its previous ruling in Cook regarding constitutional officers.

There is no longer any question whatever about the legality of county term limits in the state of Florida. Sarasota County – the only other county that was defying their voter-approved term limits law – accepted the Supreme Court decision and is now enforcing their popular 8-year term limits.

And yet, the Pinellas county commissioners continue to claim the law does not apply to them. The commissioners do not believe this is true. They simply want to keep their well-paid positions of power and are willing to brazenly defy the law – overwhelmingly approved by the people -- in order to keep them.

In Pinellas County, 8-year term limits are currently in the charter. It was never amended to remove them. There is no court ruling that nullified the county commission term limits. On the contrary, there is now a Florida Supreme Court ruling explicitly affirming them.

It is not as if the voters are calling for their repeal. In 2009, a Quinnipiac poll showed that 79 percent of voters in the greater Bay area believe that their politicians should be term limited. Furthermore, the polling suggested that 78 percent prefer that the proper term limit is eight years and opposed longer limits.

Pinellas County commissioners should act honorably and obey the law. The four who have exceeded their legal term limit should resign before being forced to do so by the courts.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Calabria to Pinellas: Voters should have their say

This essay appeared in the Aug. 2 editions of the TBN Weekly News as a letter to the editor in response to TBN's July 24 editorial, "Voters should have their say."


The title of this editorial is exactly correct and no thinking person would disagree.

The editorial makes several valid points relative to every newly elected office holder anywhere in the country. There’s no doubt that they all face a learning curve, which has always been the case.

However, Pinellas County faces a different and unique set of challenges that must be addressed. The facts relative to those challenges are clear based on the voters having had their say in 1996 when they passed the “Eight is Enough” charter amendment by more than 72 percent of the voters. While that amendment became part of the charter in 1997 it was challenged in court and the Pinellas County Commission has ignored the amendment ever since.

The Supreme Court in 2002 took up the challenge and made a decision that was completely misread by the Commission. As a result, the commission has ignored the legally passed and adopted 1996 charter amendment.

On May 12, 2012, this year, the current Supreme Court “receded” from that earlier decision and declared that term limits enacted by county charters are constitutional based on the “home rule” provisions of the Florida Constitution. That decision applies to all 67 Florida counties, including Pinellas County.

Unfortunately, the majority of our county commission has chosen to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision, which resulted in a lawsuit filed by residents of the county and is in the courts today.

The question we face today is whether four commissioners have the right to ignore a Supreme Court decision and effectively suppress the voter’s overwhelming approval of the “Eight is Enough” Charter Amendment passed in 1996.

Our system is based on the rule of law, not the rule of men. Unfortunately, four members of the commission seem to think that they are above the law and, based on their conduct, have chosen to ignore and defy the Florida Supreme Court for their own personal benefit.

Current Pinellas County Commissioners are paid between $87,000 and $99,000 a year, including benefits and “perks,” which they are clearly determined to protect, despite the court’s decision, which is now the law in Florida. That compensation is well in excess of what most county residents enjoy, particularly with respect to those of us who are retired.

While we may debate and discuss the “need” for term limits in Florida, nevertheless we are all required to obey the laws in Florida, including the 1996 charter amendment as it was passed and became effective in January 1997, more than 15 years ago.

Dan Calabria
South Pasadena

(The graphic above was created by South Pinellas 912 member Jonathan Chambers for use by any citizen working to hold our elected officials accountable to the law).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Citizens ask expired Pinellas commissioners to resign

In a lengthy and dramatic public comment period at Tuesday's Pinellas County Commission meetng, 22 citizens attended to defend the county's voter-approved law that limits commissioners to eight years in office.


To watch the comments, click here.

As four commissioners were elected in 2000 and are currently serving in violation of the law, most of the speakers explicitly asked the ineligible commissioners to resign. All four commissioners reacted with stony silence.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Florida Supremes uphold constitutionality of county term limits

It's unanimous. Yesterday morning the Supreme Court of Florida announced its decision, upholding the 2011 4th District Court of Appeals decision that county commission term limits are indeed constitutional in Florida.

The decision was expected, but nonetheless it is great news that instantly sweeps the state clean of sham lawsuits (Polk) and deceitful repeal referenda (Sarasota) from desperate politicians trying to cling to power.

The most startling aspect of the decision is that the court not only affirmed the existing right of charter counties to enact term limits, but also receded from a prior decision that denied counties the right to term limit constitutional officers such as the supervisor of elections and tax collector.

The decision affects the 20 Florida counties that have adopted "home rule" charters. These include the biggest counties, such as Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade. In these counties, citizens are allowed -- via referenda -- to customize their county governments. Ten of the 20 have chosen to enact term limits on their county commissions.

Politicians naturally chafed under the restriction and sued or otherwise tried to thwart the people's term limits in several counties, most notably Broward and Sarasota. In Sarasota, the most egregious case, politicians had successfully used the courts to keep term limits at bay but in all other cases the limits were in place and enforced.

However, when Broward tried to follow Sarasota's lead in convincing a friendly local judge to shoot down the voter-approved term limits, Broward County stood up for its voters and appealed. The lower court judges in Sarasota and then Broward argued that a split 2002 decision, Cook, in which the Florida Supreme Court denied the constitutionality of term limits for constitutional officers, should also apply to county commission term limits. However, in reviewing the Broward case, Telli, the 4th District Court of Appeals unanimously rejected this claim. Commissioners are different than constitutional officers, they said, and singling out term limits as off limits is a prohibited limitation of home rule.

When the Florida Supreme Court took the case, they also took up the Sarasota controversy (Antunes) at the same time. By the time it got there, both Sarasota and Broward lawyers to their credit were arguing on the side of the people over their own local politicians.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided that not only was the 4th DCA essentially correct, but they receded unanimously from the earlier split (4-3) decision in Cook. As a result, terms limits on both county commissioners and constitutional officers are officially Constitutional in the state of Florida.

Of the three justices who has participated in the 2002 Cook decision, Barbara Pariente and R. Fred Lewis reversed their earlier votes. Justice Peggy Quince was a dissenter in 2002 and had signed on to the ultimately persuasive 2002 dissent by Harry Lee Anstead.

Interestingly, James Rowlee -- a senior assistant attorney in the Broward County Attorney's Office -- had suggested to me as early as February 2011 that this would be the end game. He felt Broward County's argument was correct and that whether or not Broward prevailed at the 4th District Court of Appeals level, it was prepared to go all the way to the Supreme Court where, he was convinced, Broward's term limit law would prevail -- and even that Cook might get struck down as a result.

Outside lawyers who reviewed the case concurred that the people would prevail as long as the case made it all the way to Tallahassee. That is why I was not surprised, but no less pleased, by yesterday's decision.

Broward's Joni Armstrong Coffey, Andrew Meyers and Benjamin Salzillo also deserve great credit for their efforts on behalf of voters. Over in Sarasota, kudos also to Andrea Mogensen and her paralegal Micheal Barfield, who took their local citizen revolt all the way to the Supreme Court. And thank you for the Supremes themselves who had the integrity to review its own earlier decision and revise it to better accord with the Florida Constitution and the will of the people.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Florida officially calls on U.S. Congress to pass term limits amendment!

The Florida legislature today officially called on the U.S. Congress to pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment limiting Congressional terms in office.

The resolution, passed by acclamation in both houses of the Florida legislature, will be sent to the president of the United States, Speaker of the U.S. House, president of the U.S. Senate and each member of the Florida Congressional delegation.

Florida is the first state to take this step, but it will not be the last. With term limits polling at all-time highs and the Congress at record lows, pressure is building around the nation for Congress to take action.

Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. David Schweikert have introduced a constitutional amendment (SJR 11 and HJR 71, respectively) limiting congressional terms in the Senate and House. While the Florida action does not specifically mention any specific legislative proposal, they are the first state to go on record in the past decade supporting a congressional term limitation constitutional amendment. Voters overwhelmingly supported Florida’s state constitutional limits on state legislators in 1992 with 77 percent support. Polling from Quinnipiac University in 2009 suggests 82 percent of Floridians continue to support term limits on public officials.

Nationally, the support for term limits remains strong with 78 percent of Americans supporting congressional term limits according to a September 2010 poll conducted for FoxNews by Public Opinion Dynamics. Support is strong across partisan lines with 84 percent of Republicans favoring the idea while 74 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Independents also support limiting congressional terms.

Passage of the term limits constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and ratification by three-quarters (38) of the states in order to become part of the Constitution. The states are the easy part. The trick is getting through the U.S. Congress and this official call from a important state like Florida is a big help.

The Florida resolution was introduced by State Rep. Matt Caldwell (HM83) in the Florida House and Sen. Joe Negron (SM672) in the Senate.

"The evidence is in. Term limits work,” said Rep. Matt Caldwell of Lehigh Acres. "New York, Illinois and Florida have all been faced with tough decisions on how to balance their state budgets over the last few years. Only one of these states has term limits and only one of these states has cut their budgets to match their revenues and refused to raise taxes."

"Congress is on a collision course with federal bankruptcy and our last, best hope is to bring serious and permanent change to Washington, D.C.," he said.

Special thanks to Rep. Caldwell, Sen. Joe Negron, the Campaign for Liberty and grass roots lobbyist John Hallman for their work in getting this done!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Congressional term limits memorial passes Florida House!

Rep. Matt Caldwell's memorial that calls on Florida's Congressional delegation to pass federal term limits has passed the Florida House today!

Grass roots lobbyist John Hallman, who has helped shepherd the bill through Tallahassee, reports Sen. Joe Negron's version of the bill is headed to the Senate floor imminently and expects it too will pass.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

House votes to protect county term limits from litigious local pols

Hopefully, this bill won't be necessary. But just in case, Rep. John Wood (R-Winter Haven)'s bill to make the constitutionality of county term limits explicit unanimously passed the Florida House on Feb. 23.

First, a recap: Of the 20 home rule counties in Florida, voters in 10 have approved term limits over the last 15 years. Politicians have tried every trick in the book the get around the voter-approved reforms but to little avail.*

In August of last year the 4th District Court of Appeals -- the highest court in the state ever to look at the issue -- decided unanimously and unabiguously that county commission term limits are indeed constitutional. The politicians only have one last chance of overturning the will of voters, the Supreme Court of Florida, which has accepted their appeal of the 4th DCA decision. The decision is imminent.

Fortunately, every indication is that the court will rule with the people, affirming the unanimous 4th DCA decision as well as all the hundreds of thousands petitions and votes of the people.

But what if the court surprises us?

While unlikely, it is always good to have a backup plan. Fortunately, we do.

Bills in both houses of the Florida legislature that would explicitly make county term limits constitutional have passed their initial subcommittee hurdles and are moving toward the floor for a vote.

If the bills pass the legislature, the voters will have the opportunity at the ballot box in November to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling, and who can doubt they will?

(PICTURED: Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven)

* Corrupt officials in Sarasota County are so far refusing to enforce their voter-approved term limits, but all nine other counties are.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Would-be Florida Senator Connie Mack IV joins incumbent in opposition to Congressional term limits

It is hardly a shock. A professional politician from a political family who is not only a Congress member but is married to one, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Cape Coral) came out strongly against Congressional term limits on Monday.

He was making a campaign stop at the Republican Club of the Northern Palm Beaches and in response to a question made it clear he -- unlike his two competitors for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination -- would not be supporting Sen. Jim DeMint's term limits amendment bill if elected.

"The people who are now in control in the legislature are the staff who are not accountable to the members and not accountable to the voters," he said of Florida's experience with term limits. "I think what we need to do is hold people accountable who run for office. We term them out."

Reports are these cliches felt flat with the crowd. Indeed, the previous day Rep. Mack landed dead last in the straw poll held by the Florida Federation of Republican Women in Tallahassee.

He shares his anti-term limits position with the incumbent he is running against, Sen. Bill Nelson. Whereas both of his challengers for the nomination -- George LeMieux and Mike McCalister -- have signed the U.S. Term Limits Congressional pledge to cosponsor and vote for genuine 3/2 Congressional term limits as represented by the DeMint bill. Florida's current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is a cosponsor.

In taking this position, Rep. Mack is putting his own self interest above that of the people, 79 percent of which tell pollsters they support term limits. It is funny that he criticizes the Florida legislature -- which enjoy competitive elections and regular rotation in office -- as unaccountable while endorsing the status quo in Washington DC where incumbents running for reelection win just under 95 percent of the time and have since 1970.

"We term them out," indeed. Between uncontested races, nominal challengers and the natural advantages of incumbency, the U.S. Congress is by no means competitive, accessible nor accountable and Rep. Mack knows it -- and likes it that way!

(Pictured: U.S. Reps Connie IV and Mary Bono Mack out on the town.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sen. J.D. Alexander sees term limit glass half full

"Thankfully for term limits there's a graceful way to get off the horse." -- Florida Sen. J.D. Alexander in the Tampa Bay Times, 2/19/12.

Congressional term limits resolution clears last Florida House committee

Following its companion bill in the Senate, the Congressional term limits memorial has passed its final committee hurdle in the House today and should be headed to the floor.

Rep. Matt Caldwell's HB 83 and Sen. Joe Negron's SB 672, if passed, would officially call upon Florida's Congressional delegation to enact a Congressional term limits amendment.

We are so close!

Please contribute to the effort. The Campaign for Liberty has chosen these bills as a priority and grassroots lobbyist John Hallman is on the case. We need back in Tallahassee this week to keep the pressure on.

Please make a contribution right now to C4L to keep John in Tallahassee working on these bills.

All contributions through this link go solely to the legislative effort. We can't let up now. Thanks!

(Pictured: Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Haines City, speaks to term limits supporters at the state capitol last year.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

OSCEOLA: If you put it on the ballot, it will win

You remember the advice of the cornfield ghosts in the film Field of Dreams, "if you build it they will come..." Such is the position of Osceola County activists who have launched an effort to limit the terms of their county commissioners to eight years in office as well as two other home rule reforms. If you take care of the first half of the project -- getting on the ballot -- the last will largely take care of itself.

That was my advice to the Osceola crew on Feb. 2, when I addressed organizers and others in Kissimmee.

There is nothing mystical about this. Polling from 2009 shows that some 85 percent of Central Floridians support term limits on their public officials. In this political environment, term limits have been passing nearly everywhere they appear on the ballot. In the 2010 elections, I counted 35 jurisdictions across America where term limits were on the ballot. Term limits won in 34. And there's an asterisk on the 35th!

This includes Cape Canveral where 70 percent of voters approved 8-year term limits for their mayor and council.

The Osceola activists are right: They need term limits. They just moved to a single-member district system and the experience of other non-term limited counties shows that rotation in office is likely to come to a standstill as incumbents become largely unbeatable -- and unrepresentative of the citizenry. This is particularly true where there are also high commissioner salaries.

Of course, these activists have a solution for that too. At the same time they are circulating petitions to put term limits on the ballot, they are also collecting signatures to reduce the commissioners' salaries from $75,000 to $39,000 and make the elections nonpartisan.

You can help!

  • If you live in Osceola County, sign the petitions here. Get your friends and family to sign.
  • Stay in touch with the effort by signing up for email updates here.
  • Volunteer to collect signatures. If the effort is to succeed, it requires teams of signature gatherers in the streets.
  • If you cannot or don't wish to be a signature gatherer, contribute money to the effort. Money can be used to pay professional signature gatherers that can collect them in your stead.

Don't worry about gettng the word out. Don't seek news coverage. Don't participate in issues forums. Don't debate the issue at your local political club. Don't have email wars about the pros and cons of the measure. Don't perfect your website.

Get out in the hot sun and collect the signatures. If you get the signatures, the votes will come.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sarasota County case also headed to the Supremes

As reported earlier, the Florida Supreme Court is currently reviewing the 4th District Court of Appeals unanimous decision in 2011 that county commission term limits are constitutional. Today, the court announced it intends to hear a related Sarasota case as well.

Although voters in 10 Florida counties have approved term limits amendments to their local charters, politicians around the state have continued to try -- almost always unsuccessfully -- to prevent enforcement. Sarasota is the lone exception. There, politicians and their cronies have used the courts to keep the voters at bay since 2006.

This situation may soon change, as the expectation is that the Supreme Court will affirm the 4th DCA decision. Michael Barfield, paralegal for Andrea Mogensen who has shepherded the Sarasota Case on behalf of voters, says Sarasota County is no longer even contesting the constitutionality of term limits and is awaiting the Supreme Court decision to put an end to the controversy.

In fact, Barfield reports that private attorney David Persson, who represents Sarasota County, would file a brief supporting the Sarasota plaintiffs of Antunes who insist on enforcement of the voter-approved term limits law.

The justices declined to officially consolidate the Sarasota Case, Antunes v. Sarasota County, with the 4th DCA case, Telli v. Broward County. But this is only due to technical reasons. The question and therefore the decision in both cases will be the same. The court had officially consolidated a Polk County case with Telli in January.

The full story and arguments can be found in Broward County's answer brief defending the 4th DCA's decision.

Oral arguments for both the Antunes and Telli cases will be heard on April 10 in Tallahassee. A decision is expected by June.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Congressional term limits resolution headed to the Florida Senate floor!

The Congressional term limits memorial has passed its final committee hurdle today and is headed, it appears, to the floor of the Florida Senate! Meanwhile, the House version is closed behind.

Reacall from previous posts that through this memorial the Florida state legislature officially instructs the Florida Congressional delegation to enact term limits at the federal level. It this works, Florida will be the first of several states to officially call for Congressional term limits.

Sen. Joe Negron's SB672 passed the Rules Committee today 7-3 and is awaiting scheduling for a vote. In the House, Rep. Matt Caldwell's HM83 passed the Federal Affairs Subcommittee and is now waiting for a vote in State Affairs. If it passes there, it too can head to the floor for a full vote.

Please contribute to the effort. The Campaign for Liberty has chosen these bills as a priority and grassroots lobbyist John Hallman is on the case. Please make a contribution right now to C4L to keep John in Tallahassee working on these bills. All contributions through this link go solely to the legislative effort.

The finish line is in sight. We can't let up now. Thanks!

(PICTURED: John Hallman, center, meets with grass roots activists at the Capitol in Tallahassee).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Miami citizens take matters in their own hands

The voters of Miami had had enough. In March 2011, they threw out a rapacious and incompetent mayor via a lopsided recall election and called for real reform of the county commission including 8-year term limits.

The commissioners trembled in light of the 88 percent vote to fire Mayor Carlos Alvarez. We hear you loud and clear, they said. Real reform is indeed needed. And then they put a 12-year term limits proposal on a special May 24, 2011, ballot.

It didn't work. The reformers opposed the proposal and the voters shot it down. When the politicians initially tried to claim the voters had rejected term limits, the clamor grew louder. No one believed it. Like everywhere else, 12-year term limits are just a ploy by politicians to avoid the shorter limits that the people demand.

OK, OK, they said. We hear you now, 8-year term limits it is. No problem. And the commission put genuine 8-year term limits on the ballot for voter approval, but this time it was linked to a huge pay raise from $6,000 to over $92,000 a year. The term limits would go into effect in eight years; the salary increase was immediate.

Again the voters scorned them, rejecting the scam initiative 46 to 56 percent on Jan. 31.

Now the reformers are taking matters in their own hands, starting a citizens initiative to put genuine 8-year term limits on the ballot themselves under the auspices of the Miami Voice political committee. It won't be easy, as access to the ballot will require 120,000 valid signatures.

Maybe commissioners will step up and put the standalone 8-year language on the ballot. Two are saying they aim to do just that. I'll believe it when I see it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Looking out for #1 in Tallahassee

The root of public cynicism towards government from both the left and right is the belief that politicians are more interested in their own personal interests than the interests of the people. Term limits underscore this divide like few other issues do.

Consider this: Polling from 2009 suggests that 85 percent of Central Florida voters support term limits on their public officials. That includes well over three-quarters of Republicans, Democrats and independents.

And yet, consider this defiant statement from Central Florida State Rep. Scott Randolph of Orlando when asked about his opposition to a bill that would protect county voters' right to impose term limits at the ballot box:

"I'm just firmly against term limits," Rep. Randolph said.

Congressional term limits resolution advances -- Take Action!

The Congressional term limits memorial, in which the state legislature officially calls on the Florida Congressional delegation to enact term limits at the federal level, has advanced through key committees in both the Florida State House and Senate, but it still faces obstacles before it reaches the floor for a vote.

In the House, Rep. Matt Caldwell's HM83 passed the Federal Affairs Subcommittee and is now waiting for a vote in State Affairs. If it passes there, it will head to the floor for a full vote.

In the Senate, Sen. Joe Negron's SB672 passed the Rules Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections by a vote of 7-3. It is now heading towards it final stop in the Senate Rules Committee. This is a tough one, but we do have an ace in the hole: Sen. Negron sits on this committee!

Recall this memorial is important. If successful if Florida, we'll work in other states to pass similar resolutions to ignite an official clamor for Congressional term limits. Right now there are bills in both houses of the U.S. Congress with cosponsors calling for 3/2 (that is, three terms in the House and two in the Senate) term limits amendment. But for the amendment to go the states for ratification, the easy part, it has to get through the Congress itself.

Please take action now:

1) Contribute to the effort. The Campaign for Liberty has chosen these bills as a priority and grassroots lobbyist John Hallman is on the case. Please make a contribution right now to C4L. All contributions through this link go solely to the legislative effort.

2) Contact members of the Senate Rules Committee today and ask them for a floor vote on SB672. Click on their names below to send an email:

Chair: Senator John Thrasher (R)
Vice Chair: Senator JD Alexander (R)

Senator Larcenia J. Bullard (D)
Senator Anitere Flores (R)
Senator Don Gaetz (R)
Senator Andy Gardiner (R)
Senator Dennis L. Jones, D.C. (R)
Senator Evelyn J. Lynn (R)
Senator Gwen Margolis (D)
Senator Joe Negron (R)
Senator Garrett Richter (R)
Senator Gary Siplin (D)
Senator Christopher L. "Chris" Smith (D)
Senator Stephen R. Wise (R)


Friday, February 10, 2012

Nine Florida candidates sign Congressional term limits pledge -- so far

So far 99 candidates for the U.S. Congress have signed the U.S. Term Limits pledge, in which signatories commit to cosponsor and vote for a Congressional term limits amendment limiting House members to three terms and Senators to two.

Of these, nine signers hail from Florida. Here's the list: Deborah Pueschel (Congressional District 4); Craig Miller (CD 6); Anna Marie Trujillo (CD 19); Osvaldo Defaria (CD 20); Karen Harrington (pictured, CD 20); Joe Kaufman (CD 20); Adam Hasner (CD 22); George Lemieux (U.S. Senate); and Mike McCalister (U.S. Senate).

Print out the pledge from here and ask your Congressional candidate to sign one.

Some percentage of these challengers will win and after November, we'll have a new wave of cosponsors on the House and Senate bills.

UPDATE 2/13: The total is now up to 106 signatories, with a Floridian among the latest signers. From District 25, Democrat Justin Sternad of Cutler Bay is an enthusiastic signer who posted his pledge on his website. Thanks, Justin!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Senate candidate LeMieux blasts Mack, Nelson on term limits

The race for the U.S. Senate in Florida is hot and getting hotter. Sitting Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is considered a weak incumbent and has attracted a field of five serious challengers.

Fortunately, all of the challengers but one have signed the U.S. Term Limits pledge to cosponsor and vote for 3/2 term limits as represented in Sen. Jim Demint's term limits amendment bill. Speaking to a Tea Party group on Jan. 12, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux blasted the only candidates who haven't signed on, incumbent Sen. Nelson and fellow Republican primary challenger U.S. Rep. Connie Mack.

"You don't send career politicians to fix Washington," LeMieux told the Indian River County Tea Party in Vero Beach. "I would serve a term or two and go home."

Characterizing Mack's private-sector experience as "a market outreach coordinator for Hooters," LeMieux renewed his call for term limits and noted that he lives and works in Florida. "California doesn't need a third senator," the Gunster Law firm chairman said in reference to Mack's residence in Palm Springs with wife Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA).


Term limits continues to play an important role in the Senate race. Adam Hasner reaffirmed his similar pledge to cosponsor the term limits amendment and even self-limit at the January meeting of the Republican Club of Central Palm Beach County.