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.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rand Paul: The time is now for term limits

The following is as good a case for Congressional term limits as any I have seen anywhere. That it was penned by a U.S. Senator is evidence that the issue has momentum at the federal level that we have not seen in over decade. This short essay is lifted from the Rand Paul for Senate website.

By U.S. Sen. Rand Paul

More than 95% of incumbent politicians win re-election to the U.S. Congress. Incumbents win re-election at a higher rate than they did in the Soviet Politburo.

With each successive term, politicians grow more and more distant from the people. It is hard to understand the plight of ordinary citizens when Congressman make over $170,000 per year, have health care benefits worth another $15,000 and become fully vested in a lucrative pension plan within a few years.

Some pundits like to remark that we already have term limits they’re called “elections.” This glib response ignores the fact that incumbent U.S. Senators start each election cycle with an average of $8 million dollars in the bank. The average U.S. Representative starts with over $1 million in the bank.

Most of this incumbent cash comes in the form of $5,000 checks from special interest groups that want federal contracts or federal favors.The challenger must raise his or her contributions largely from individuals, typically averaging under $100 per check.

Is it any wonder that incumbents win almost every election?

Long term incumbency leads to politicians who seem to care more about what is best for their career than what is best for their country.

After the vast enlargement of government under FDR, the country reacted fairly quickly to limit the terms of the President. Over 80% of the public, both Democrats and Republicans, favor term limits. What will it take to force a vote on Congressional term limits?

Today we are drowning in a sea of debt, teetering on financial ruin if we don’t get our house in order. Will this crisis be the one that finally convinces us as a nation to bring these politicians home, to replace them?

You can help Rand enact Congressional term limits. Please sign the online petition here and send this article to your friends, family and coworkers. You can use the SHARE tab atop this page to share this post via email, Facebook and Twitter. -- pb

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Here's a term limits pledge with TEETH

It is easy to forget that back in the early 1990s 23 states actually term limited their federal Congress members to (mostly) six or eight years in office in the House and 12 years in the Senate. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court shot these down term limits before they went into effect in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, 1995.

In response, dozens of Congress members at that time pledged to self limit in a bow to the clear will of the voters. Some of these pledgers lived up to their word, including Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Tom Coburn and others.

However, many did not. When they still identified closely with the people, the Founder’s vision of regular rotation in office sounded like a great idea. But when the time came for them to relinquish the perks of power, these politicians all of a sudden discovered the value of “political experience.”

Hence, the self-limit pledges in many cases aided and abetted some crooked politicians or, at least, politicians who would eventually be corrupted by power. That is, these politicians got to benefit from their popular stand when their political position was new and precarious, but once they were established as part of Washington’s entrenched and largely unbeatable incumbency, they tossed their promise out the window.

Enter bonded term limits. A couple of years ago, a handful of gentlemen out of Pinehurst, NC, added a new twist to the self-limit idea. What if a politician signing a self-limit pledge actually signed a contract – a bond – that legally required them to pay big money to charity if they broke their word?

Now the self-limit idea had teeth, and the Alliance for Bonded Term Limits was born. In ABTL’s first foray in 2010, 22 candidates signed the ABTL bonded term limits pledge. The group was off to a good start.

Self-limiting – George Washington’s inspiring innovation – is back. Next time a candidate or politician is wooing voters with his support for term limits, ask him to sign on the dotted line!

For the candidate pledge kit and a short introductory video on the bonded term limits idea, go here.