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School board term limits advance in Florida Senate — with a slight twist

The Florida House and Constitution Revision Commission also have similar proposals moving ahead.
Sen. Greg Steube presents a resolution to limit school board member terms in the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Jan. 30, 2018. [The Florida Channel]
Published Jan. 30, 2018
Updated Jan. 30, 2018

Florida voters appear destined to decide whether their school board members should have term limits, just like the governor, Cabinet members and lawmakers.

Exactly how long those terms should be, though, is not yet settled.

The state Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Tuesday advanced a resolution (SJR 194) that would give board members three four-year terms, and start the clock with their next election.

Sponsor Sen. Greg Steube's preference was for eight years, but he said he'd leave the call to the committee majority. And a majority was not to be had without the support of Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat, who said he would only back the bill with a 12-year limit.

Without him, the bill would have died on a 3-3 vote. So the committee compromised.

"I have gotten hundreds of emails from people who asked for this bill," said Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican. "Not one said eight years, 12 years, three years or 10 years. They said they wanted term limits."

The prudent thing to do, she said, was to back Rodriguez's amendment and let the bill move on.

In its current form, it conflicts with the House version (HJR 1031), which would set eight-year term limits and begin counting time served after 2013.  Several House members who voted for the measure in committee suggested they also might prefer a 12-year limit rather than eight in order to support it in the final form.

A separate Constitution Revision Commission proposal would count time served after 2015, and also have a two-term limit.

Backers of the underlying idea said they would follow the Senate proposal to its next stop, the Education Committee, and advocate for an amendment to return SJR 194 to an eight-year limit.

The Florida School Boards Association opposed the bill, but thanked Steube for agreeing not to have the term limits be retroactive, so that anyone who had already served the set length would not be immediately ousted. State lawmakers faced prospective term limits without retroactivity when they were imposed.