Letter to the Editor / Term Limits
By Sheldon Davidson
Buckle up! This is going to be a bumpy election year. State term limits will cause voters to select, among others, a new governor and attorney general. Are term limits important to the voters? It appears so. A local newspaper recently devoted its weekend editorial to demand term limits for all Florida offices, including both the Monroe County School Board and the County Commission. Last year, the Monroe County Mosquito Control Commission (“MCD”) voted to impose term limits of three 4-year terms on future (but not present) commissioners, that is, anyone elected for the first time in 2018 and thereafter.
Should State and local term limits be expanded to cover all elected offices and if so, what kind of term limits do voters want, that is, do the voters want “term limits” applicable to both current/future officials, and should term limits be measured in years or in the number of elected terms?
What if measured by the number of elected terms? The primary example of this kind of term limits is the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: That reads, in, pertinent part, as follows: ” No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.” That is why President Gerald Ford (who held the office of President for more than two year after Nixon resigned) could not have run for a second 4-year term had he won the election against Jimmy Carter.
Conversely, several Florida cities, including Key West, seem to addresses the concept of “term limits” by the number of years in office and not by the number of elected terms. In Key West, Mayor Craig Cates was able to serve five terms totaling nine years and certain city commissioners could now serve four terms for a total of 15 years, rather than be limited to 8 years for mayor and 12 years for commissioner, as delineated in the charter. The concept/possibility of more years in office came about when city odd-year elections were changed to the State’s even-year elections.
In 2017, the Mosquito Control Commission voted to impose three 4-year “term limits” on its Commissioners— but board members in office after October 8, 2018, would not have their current terms count toward the imposed term limits. Why not? A mystery.
Why three 4-year terms and not two? One of the present commissioners argued about the steep learning curve that MSD commissioners face and contended that eight years was not enough. It is enough, however, for the President and the Florida Governor –and those positions appear to have a much more severe “learning curve.”
Suggestion: If the number of term limits is the order of the day, and if we agree to have two 4-year terms as the number of terms allowed–not eight years–and have that applicable to all members of the Board or Commission rather than exempting existing office holders, a new statute could read as follows:
“No person shall be elected to be a member of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners who has been previously elected to that office two times, and no person who has held the office of Monroe County Commissioner or has acted in that capacity for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected, shall be elected to the office of Monroe County Commissioner more than once.
“These eligibility requirements rely upon antecedent facts for their operation and accordingly, are not retroactive, and apply to all present elected Commissioners, and to all future Commissioners.”