Friday, March 4, 2011

Florida's anti-term limits trickster at it again

He's back! Florida’s anti-term limits obsessive, Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton), has returned with a new scheme to weaken Florida’s term limits -- and it’s more devious than ever.

It has to be. Florida has 8-year legislative term limits written into their constitution and it requires a 60 percent vote in a popular referendum to change them. Given that 2009 polling suggests that some 79 percent of Florida voters like Florida’s term limits just the way they are, a straightforward bill is out of the question.

Sen. Bennett knows this from experience. That’s why last year he tried to tack an anti-term limits amendment to a popular bill to give tax breaks to veterans. That didn’t fly, so this year he has a new trick.

Just as in the past, the core of his proposed amendment (S 0300) is to weaken Florida’s term limits from eight to 12 years. The proposal would also lengthen the individual terms for House members from two to four years and for Senators from four to six.

But to sweeten the deal, the amendment would impose 12-year term limits also on county and municipal politicians.

Get it? This latest iteration of Sen. Bennett’s annual effort to weaken Florida term limits is really a pro-term limits bill! Sen. Bennett aims to sell this as an amendment to "improve" state limits and impose new-and-improved term limits all over the state. He's a term limits hero!

Scott Maxwell summed up it up perfectly in the Orlando Sentinel: “The hypocrisy of this idea is exceeded only by its audacity.”

Worse, the sugar Sen. Bennett is using to sell his snake oil is really only saccharine. This amendment, by imposing 12-year term limits on lower offices, would actually abolish the numerous existing 8-year term limits that exist on county commissions, mayors and city councils all over the state. Many or maybe most of these were put into effect by citizens collecting petitions in the hot summer sun and then approved by vast majorities at the ballot box.

"I'm not really focusing so much on extending the term limit from eight to 12 years,” said the author of the House companion to the Bennett bill, Rep. Rick Kriseman (D-St. Pete).

No kidding.