School board term limits move in Florida Senate, with some hesitation

A few lawmakers say they have concerns about the proposal.
Published April 10, 2019

A measure that would let Florida voters decide whether to impose eight-year term limits on school board members advanced through its second state Senate committee on Wednesday.

During debate in the Education Committee, though, a handful of senators said they weren’t yet sold on the bill (SJR 274).

And because a three-fifths vote is needed for adoption of resolutions proposing constitutional amendments, as this would be, the individual questions by members could provide critical. So far, just one Democrat -- Sen. Daryl Rouson -- has signed on as a cosponsor, meaning if all 23 Republicans back the item, it would squeak by the 40-member chamber.

But at least two Republicans indicated they had reservations, and asked sponsor Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, to work with them as the bill moves ahead to the Rules Committee and perhaps to the floor.

“I do have concerns, and the more I talk to people, the more concerns I have,” said Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville.

He did not spell out his issues, but said without changes, he might not support the idea any further.

Sen. David Simmons, R-Longwood, said he shared the views raised by some opponents, who suggested that the proposal would take away local control over who serves on the county school boards. He also said he thought a 12-year limit would be more palatable than an eight-year one.

“That’s a reasonable number,” Simmons suggested.

Baxley said he didn’t necessarily disagree. But he offered that the “eight is enough” movement appeared fairly clear in pushing for two four-year terms.

He added that no one is asking dedicated community servants to stop serving. They just should take a break, Baxley said, give up the power of incumbency and, if they desire, try to come back again.

“The point is letting go,” Baxley said, noting he took a three-year break between his terms in the state House and Senate.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, meanwhile contended that the debate missed the point.

“'We can’t get them out’ means the minority can’t get out who a majority wants to keep in office,” Montford said. “We talk about choice. What’s wrong with giving voters a choice?”

The bill narrowly survived the committee, by a 5-3 vote. Its companion in the House has seen stronger bipartisan support, and is next headed to the floor.