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!