Philip Blumel: Great news, the Term Limits Convention Resolution has passed the West Virginia Senate.
Philip Blumel: Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the term limits movement for the week of January 27th, 2020.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Last Wednesday in a bipartisan vote, the West Virginia Senate approved a resolution calling for a national amendment proposing convention under Article Five of the US Constitution limited to the issue of congressional term limits. If the West Virginia House follows suit, West Virginia will be the fourth state of the 34 needed to trigger the term limits convention. For more detail and additional news from this busy week, we turn to US Term Limits executive director Nick Tomboulides, take it away, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: I have a question for you. Are you fed up? Are you fed up with Washington, DC? Are you fed up with Congress members who pass thousand page bills without reading them, who spend trillions of dollars they don’t have, leave your children and grandchildren with trillions of dollars in debt? Are you fed up with politicians who exempt themselves from the laws that they expect the rest of us will follow? Well, I know I’m fed up and I’ll tell you who else is fed up. Randy Smith. Randy Smith is a state Senator from West Virginia. He is the chief sponsor of Senate Resolution Four for West Virginia to add its name to the list of states supporting a convention to term limit Congress.
Nick Tomboulides: Last Wednesday, Randy stood strong. He didn’t pull any punches and he got the term limits convention passed through the West Virginia State Senate. He told his colleagues, I’m fed up and if anyone in here is not fed up with what’s going on, shame on you because this is a last resort to fix a problem that Congress will not fix. Amen. The West Virginia Senate listened to Senator Smith, they passed the bill by a margin of 20 to 10 with four Democrats crossing party lines in support. And this really is nothing short of historic. It is a statement that Washington, DC is broken and if Congress isn’t going to fix itself, the States and the people are going to take action and that is exactly what West Virginia did on Wednesday. Now it’s just the state Senate. This still needs a vote in the state House, but we’re optimistic.
Nick Tomboulides: We’re optimistic because on the day that Randy Smith got the term limits convention passed through the West Virginia Senate, Delegate Jeff Pack of the West Virginia House introduced HCR 22, the house companion bill and that has 43 co-sponsors in the House. There are 60 West Virginia legislators who have signed the term limits pledge promising to support this congressional term limits effort and when Jeff Pack dropped the resolution, he said it’s time to drain the swamp of politicians who are out of touch with hardworking West Virginians. The best way to do that is by establishing term limits on Congress.
Nick Tomboulides: Now there’s a history here. Last year we saw sort of bizarro land or a bizarro world. We saw the House pass this, but then when it came up for a vote on the Senate side, a cheeky brash, loud mouth, anti-term limits Senator named Mike Romano stood up and he filibustered it. He filibustered it and he ran out the clock on us. He ran the clock down at midnight like Cinderella. Everything in West Virginia turns into a pumpkin at midnight on the final day of the session and the bill went down in flames and people were mad. People were frustrated. But what we did was we regrouped, we went back to the grassroots, we got more legislators on the pledge, we educated them on how important term limits are. And this year we got the Senate done early. There is no Romano in the House. He’s a disease, but he can’t infect two chambers at once. So we believe we have the votes in the House to get through, make West Virginia the fourth state in America to call for the term limits convention.
Nick Tomboulides: But you know, this wouldn’t have happened if not for the amazing efforts of some of these state senators. You know, I’ll give you one example. Senator Patricia Rucker. This bill was in a judiciary committee hearing before it went to the floor and once again Romano was in that hearing making trouble. And Senator Patricia Rucker did something so great. She waited patiently. She let Romano, she let all the haters make their claims about what a term limits convention might do. But then she calmly explained what a convention will do, and that is propose an amendment to the Constitution for term limits. And of course, Senator Rucker, she didn’t work alone. She had a secret weapon, if you will, which she brought into the debate. I’m surprised they still let you into a government building with one of these, but she brought the US Constitution and all she did was read the Constitution.
Nick Tomboulides: She read Article Five where it tells you how you get a convention. Article Five says, Congress shall call a convention for proposing amendments, shall call. That means they have no choice in the matter, which in either case shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several States. And that’s upon application for a convention by two thirds of the several States. So in order to get a convention, two thirds of state legislatures, those folks who dwell in your state capitol, wherever you may be, whether you’re in Florida, it’s Tallahassee. If you’re in Connecticut, it’s Hartford. If you’re in California, at Sacramento, if you’re in Texas, it’s Austin. Those politicians in your state capitol, they have to vote for term limits on Congress and when 34 States have done that, then we can get the term limits convention.
Nick Tomboulides: The convention meets, it deliberates. They decide what’s the right term limit for Congress and then it goes back to the state capitols where it needs to get ratified by 38 States, and at that point we’re talking term limits for Congress. State legislators, dream of being in Congress, they can’t get there because they’re blocked by incumbents, so they’re going to have an extra powerful incentive to vote for this. It’s going to be a meal ticket for them. We get comments on our Facebook page, we get comments about this on our YouTube postings of the podcast and it’s, well, Congress is never going to vote for term limits on itself.
Nick Tomboulides: They don’t have to. They don’t have to. That’s the beauty of what we’re doing here. We don’t need the politicians in Washington to vote for this. And in fact, when we use the convention, they can’t stop it either. Not a single swamp creature in Washington, DC can stop us. That’s the beauty of this. State legislators hold the power and they hold the power for a reason. It’s because the framers of our Constitution, they knew that the States had to be that final check and balance on the power of Washington, DC. That’s why James Madison said, when he was introducing the Bill of Rights, that the state legislatures are the sure guardians of the people’s liberty, that the state legislatures like Randy Smith noted in his poignant testimony that they are the last resort. When Washington fails to act, we always have the States. And it was done for a reason.
Nick Tomboulides: Go back to 1787, summer of 1787 when the framers were debating how the Constitution could be amended, they were going to give Congress all of the power, but then a few different people stepped up. Most people think James Madison was behind this, but some evidence that’s been unearthed by our own Ken Quinn suggests that it was really, Charles Pinckney had this idea of giving States some power, giving the States say in the matter so that Congress does not have a monopoly over amendments. And thus the Article Five convention was born. And it’s a way of amending the Constitution, it’s a way of proposing amendments to the Constitution we have. It doesn’t create a new Constitution. It’s like George Washington said, if the people decide that the distribution of power in America is wrong, let them change it by an amendment. Let it not be changed by usurpation. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what we’re doing.
Nick Tomboulides: The distribution of power in this country is wrong. There’s too much power in Washington, DC. There’s too much power in the hands of politicians who use it for their own benefit, not to benefit the people, not to create a stronger America and that’s what we want to do. We want to take power away from Washington and transfer it back to the people. The government power. Power is like air in a tire. It’s like a gas. It’s going to expand to fill the space that it’s given. And government power, congressional power will expand until it’s checked. If you leave it unchecked, the power of politicians will expand limitlessly, so we need to put a check on power.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s exactly what the state of West Virginia is doing and it’s just fantastic. Kudos to Patricia Rucker for bringing the Constitution into the debate, for reading it, for schooling her colleagues who obviously have not read it in a while or maybe have never read it, in the case of Senator Romano. But she said something else that was very powerful. The founders put this in the Constitution for a reason. They knew exactly what they were doing. They knew the folks in Washington, DC would eventually abuse their power and that we needed an escape hatch. We needed a safety valve. That’s what we have. West Virginia took a vote. I’m fed up, but I see that there is some hope for change on the horizon. Also in this debate there was a great moment where a Senator Rucker schooled Senator Romano on the difference between an Article Five convention and a state convention because he didn’t know the difference.
Nick Tomboulides: You know, state convention is how you ratify the amendment, how you confirm the amendment at the end. The Article Five convention is how you propose the amendment. Now I realize I’m nerding out a lot here, nerding out a little too much. I might as well be discussing Battlestar Galactica action figures with you guys, but let me summarize. The anti-term limit chump got schooled and in the West Virginia Senate the good guys won, so let’s keep the momentum going. Let’s get the West Virginia House next week.
Scott Tillman: Hi, this is Scott Tillman, the national field director with US Term Limits. I’m also part of a volunteer group in Michigan that defends our state term limits from over-ambitious legislators and greedy lobbyists. The Michigan group is called, Don’t Touch our Term Limits. Michigan has the strongest term limits in the nation. Politicians are limited to three House terms and two Senate terms and these are lifetime limits. Michigan’s term limits are currently under attack from lobbyists and legislators. They want more time in Lansing. Voters don’t want to give them any more time. October polling showed that 69% of Michigan voters oppose changing Michigan’s term limits.
Scott Tillman: This week we took a giant pig on a trailer to over 30 cities in southeast Michigan. The pig is a great visual to show how politicians want more time at the trough. The response to the pig has been great. Please go to our Save Michigan Term Limits Facebook page to see locations and share stories about the pig. If you’re in Michigan, please go to termlimits.com/pig and take action. If you’re interested in joining one of our many volunteer groups to help advocate for term limits, please contact us at termlimits.com.
Scott Tillman: Florida school board term limits are back after being derailed last session. House Representative Anthony Sabatini has reintroduced HJR 157, which will put the question on the November 2020 ballot. Here, Representative Sabatini makes his case before the House Pre-K to 12 Innovation Subcommittee last week. After public comment and debate, the committee approved the bill, its first step on the road to the voters.
Speaker 5: Next on our list is HJR 157 by Rep. Sabatini, limitations on terms of office for members of a district school board.
Anthony Sabatini: Thank you so much, Chairman, much appreciate it. And good afternoon committee members. House Joint Resolution 157 might look familiar. I had it before this distinguished body last year, I had a two-hour introduction scheduled, but because we heard it last year, I figured I’d narrow it down to just the points since you all have amazing memories and you remember the great arguments we made in favor of term limits last year. So this is a constitutional amendment. This is not a bill to enact term limits. This is a bill to give Floridians the opportunity, if they wish, this November to vote for term limits. There is no more bipartisan bill filed this year, arguably any other year in the history of the legislature. Over 82% of Floridians in every demographic, every political category, in every piece of our state, every county have been polled. And like I said, well over three quarters of Floridians are in favor of term limits.
Anthony Sabatini: I’ll tell you exactly why. You can look around this room and see it right now. Term limits creates a more diverse, fresh group of people who are looking at problems at new ways. You know, there’s a lot of great arguments, but I do like to use an anecdote. I’m a member of the Florida Army National Guard and anyone in the military, military veteran, will tell you one of the most foundational principles of leadership in the military is the rotation of leadership. As you succeed and achieve in the military, they actually move you to different organizations, different places, and I think the same principle can really be transferred to politics. If you’re really good and you’re a public servant and the people know that, even in the community in which you’re elected, they want to move you to another position. They want to move you around and have that applied to a new political problem. And I think that’s why term limits are so appealing. It really transcends politics itself.
Anthony Sabatini: The other thing I’d like to say about term limits is sometimes hear these countering arguments of, well, people want to choose and someone wants to serve, why are we going to limit them? We’re not limiting them. What we’re limiting is actually consecutive elections, right? So you serve eight years, two, four-year terms, take a break, do something else and then come back to the office in which you love, if you want, in the future. I’m totally fine with that. And the reason we’re doing this, the reason that consecutive part is so important is because it creates more competitive elections. We’re living in a time where elections are getting increasingly less competitive and people don’t even know what they’re voting for. They often check a box and what happens is when you freshen it up and new people are coming in with new ideas, it forces folks to pay attention, right? They’re not just voting for that familiar name. They’re looking and they’re analyzing, they’re comparing, they’re contrasting new leaders in that political office. And so creating competitive elections, I think, is something that really serves democracy well and I think I’ll reserve my comments for later. That is the bill, Mr. Chair.
Speaker 5: Thank you very much. Any questions? There are no amendments. Any questions, members?
Speaker 7: Rep. Sabatini, why just the constitutional officer of school boards, why not all of the constitutional officers such as your city clerks, those constitutional positions?
Anthony Sabatini: That’s an excellent question. I really appreciate it. And then there’s two things I’ll say about that. One is arguably after the president, the governor, the cabinet, the state Senate, the state House, all of these very important offices that control enormous power in our nation and state being term limited, the next, in my opinion, most arguably important and powerful position that’s not term limited is our school boards. A lot of people don’t realize this, the school boards actually control over $20 billion mandated for education our state, well more than any other officer, $20 billion in the state of Florida. A quarter of our state budget is administered and executed by that body. So I think it’s very important in such a powerful position that we have new people rotating through.
Anthony Sabatini: And then secondly, I’d like to say that I actually personally believe that everyone should be term limited. I think it’s better to have narrowly tailored bills that focus on one or two things and it really tailors the conversation to that item and doesn’t get distracting. And then you know, in the future if somebody wants to file a bill on that, they can. So I hope that answers your question.
Nick Tomboulides: Finally, I have a mini update for you from our friends in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. If you recall, we had a great interview with Tim Burns last week coming off the heels of a circuit court decision out of Cook County, which struck down an Illinois law as unconstitutional, a law that tried to stop localities from passing retroactive term limits on their elected officials. That was struck down in county court. But Elk Grove is another case where politicians are trembling in fear at the thought of voters making a decision. So they’re doing all they can to disenfranchise them. The Elk Grove Village clerk, Lori Murphy is still refusing to certify the question for the ballot that would let the people vote on term limits. And I’m confused because this appears to be defying a court order. Judge Maureen Hannon, Circuit Court judge in Cook County, just last week ordered the clerk to certify the question on term limits.
Nick Tomboulides: So in news, that probably surprises absolutely no one. An Illinois public official is refusing to follow the law. I guess in Elk Grove there’s the law and then there’s Murphy’s law, the law that only exists in the mind of a delusional village employee who despises term limits. And by the way, you know there’s a time for civil disobedience, Rosa Parks, Gandhi, et cetera, but trying to block a lawfully organized petition drive is just a vile and rotten thing to do. And with this behavior, I would say the elected officials in Elk Grove are only proving why term limits are needed so badly. Maybe if you didn’t act like this, the citizens wouldn’t be clamoring for term limits. Did you ever think about that? it’s a little bit of a catch-22. And on top of that, the city is now using the top lawyer, Michael Madigan, 35-year Speaker of Illinois to get this overturned and they have the top lawyer for the Republican party working to get it overturned as well. Can’t make this up. The political duopoly has descended on a village of 33,000 people to tell the citizens what to do.
Nick Tomboulides: And if you remember at the very outset of this case, the arguments they were making, the arguments the city was making against Tim Burns was that he is an outsider and term limits is coming from outside. People of Elk Grove don’t want this. Well now we know the facts, that the people of Elk Grove want it and the outsiders are the lawyers, the high-powered sharks the city is bringing in to fight the people and to overturn the people’s will. So we’re tracking this story and we hope for the best. We hope that citizens actually do get to vote on March 17th. Look, some people fear spiders, other people fear closed-in spaces. The mayor of Elk Grove village fears voters. He fears what will happen to his political career, if the people can walk into that ballot box on March 17th and pass term limits. Keep following for updates on the story.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for this episode of No Uncertain Terms. Term limits are an American tradition that is worth celebrating. On February 27th, how will you publicly show your support for Term Limits Day? For ideas, go to termlimits.com/termlimitsday. For swag, go to termlimits.com/shop. Feel free to contact us with your ideas through our website as well. Whatever you do, be sure to document it on social media. Thanks. We’ll be back next week.
Speaker 2: If you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review. The No Uncertain Terms podcast can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, and now Google Play.
Nick Tomboulides: USTL. Honestly, we’ve got a school board member in Florida who’s been in office since 1976. I checked the top song that year was, Play That Funky Music, White Boy. I’m not even sure if you could still say that anymore.