Philip Blumel: The term limit state strikes again. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of May 15th, 2023.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: After a five-year battle that weaved through town hall meetings, the State Supreme Court, a Constitutional Revision Commission, the legislature multiple times and to the Governor’s office, again, multiple times, the bill has finally passed both houses and the Governor signed off on it last week. Now it is finally official. School board members of all 69 school districts in the term limit state are now limited to eight years in office. Boom! Ahh, but which state are we talking about? Well, I’ll give you some hints. One, it is the state with the most term limits on the books. Two, it is the state ranked number one for economic performance by the American Legislative Exchange Council in their 2023 rankings. Three, it is the state that is ranked number one for internal migration, that is migration between the states, for the last five years, and four, it was the first state to officially apply for the Term Limits Convention, that is to approve a resolution calling for an amendment writing Convention under Article V of the US Constitution, limited to the subject of congressional term limits. That’s right, we’re talking about Florida. And now, Florida has struck again, term limiting 358 school board members in 69 districts to eight years in office. Congratulations.
Philip Blumel: Now, US Term Limits has been working on this project since 2017, when we were pushing legislation to impose eight-year term limits on these school boards, and also that year, the state’s Constitutional Revision Commission was ramping up, and US Term Limits activists were crowding town hall meetings at that time calling for a statewide referendum on eight-year school board term limits. Ahh, but what a roller coaster that we have been on since then. The Constitutional Revision Commission is an organization that’s called up every 20 years and has town hall meetings around the state, and ultimately the people on the Commission recommend certain amendments to be placed on the ballot for a popular vote in changing the constitution. Well, the Constitution Revision Commission did indeed place eight-year school board limits on the ballot, but at the last minute, they were yanked off the ballot by the Supreme Court of Florida, not because there was a problem with the term limits measure, but because the term limits measure was packaged with another measure that they said did not pass constitutional muster, so that multi-issue referendum did not make it on the ballot. Alright, so back to the legislature we went, where the idea lost, but then it was revived again, and then the bill passed, but it had been co-opted by politicians who passed a watered down 12-year version.
Philip Blumel: What a lame, lame ploy. And we’ve seen it many times, politicians see the polls, of course, and they’d like to wrap themselves in the term limits flag while they wink at special interests and career politicians who support them. 12-year term limits are hardly term limits at all. You could call them the politicians’ term limit because they only are passed when politicians see that the only alternative is the eight-year or even six-year term limits that voters actually want. Anyways, with this five years of momentum behind us and a Governor, Ron DeSantis, who took the lead to overturn last year’s betrayal, the deed is now done. So I live in Florida. Yes, so maybe I’m biased, but I would love to hand the mantle of the term limit’s state to another state. California, North Carolina, Tennessee, Maine. Let’s see what you got. Thanks to Senator Blaise Ingoglia from Spring Hill, who carried the bill in the Senate, where it passed 30 to 7, and Representative Alex Rizo of Hialeah, which carried the bill in the house where it passed 79 to 29. Interestingly, the Senate version included County Commissioner term limits of eight years. Now, most of the largest counties in Florida are already term limited, but not all the counties are.
Philip Blumel: Plus some of the County Commissions are 12 years, although most are eight years, and then of course there’s the case of Pinellas County, the home of Saint Petersburg, probably the most corrupt county in the state, where voters overwhelmingly approved eight-year term limits at the ballot box, but the county refused to insert them into the charter, and that deserves some redress, and that was part of the point of this addition to the school board bill to add County Commissions. But I digress. So why were term limits so important for school boards? Aren’t these sleepy little elections and a lot of mothers and local people get involved in school boards as a public service, right? Well, maybe in some places they do, but in Florida, unlike most states, Florida pays its school board members, and these officials have enormous power as they move billions of dollars into construction projects, hence money flows into campaigns of these politicians. So this is a toxic combination which makes incumbents nearly unbeatable, just like in the US Congress. And of course, this is important to the career school board members. I mean, in Miami Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Orange counties, the salary is over $44,000 annually for what is essentially a part-time job. Now, keep in mind, these school board members aren’t running the school district, they have a professional manager that they hire, superintendent of schools to do that.
Philip Blumel: So in preparing the segment in celebration of this victory, I came across a US Term Limits handout from 2018 that was making its rounds, making the case for school board term limits. And I wanna share with you a couple of the arguments we were making for this, because they, one, they’re really good arguments that apply to term limits at all levels. One is that term limits foster regular, open-seat elections, that’s really the number one reason for term limits anywhere for elected officials. Second, term limits encourage independence by the school board, and that’s because term limits will regularly sever the relationships that would naturally grow up between special interests and incumbent school board members. Next, term limits improve citizen access to the process, they encourage candidates to run for office and to work on meaningful campaigns and to increase voter participation in elections. Term limits encourage new faces and fresh ideas of course.
Philip Blumel: Incumbent members often have their heels dug in over past political battles or are wedded to the special interests that they have relied on for reelection time after time again. Term limits mandate rotation in office, which expands the circle of citizens with an intimate knowledge of how the school board works, and that is essential at local level bodies of government. Term limits encourage transparency and discourage corruption, and term limits create a level playing field between the school board and Florida’s other political offices, most of which already have eight-year term limits. As I mentioned, Governor DeSantis had endorsed this amendment, and he wrote that, “No elected office, whether federal or local, is ever better off when run by career politicians.” No kidding. Well, we’ll probably here DeSantis bragging about this victory if he announces a run for President.
Philip Blumel: Speaking of the presidential campaign, Nikki Haley was the first announced candidate to come out in favor of congressional term limits, but last week, she took the next step, signing a US Term Limits pledge that specifically committed her to supporting three two-term limits, that is three terms in the House and two in the Senate. The US Term Limits amendment currently introduced in Congress with about 130 pledged supporters is a three-two amendment. Now, the importance of this step is that she isn’t just speaking generally because she’s seen polls, she’s putting her support where it counts on a real bill that is introduced right now with co-sponsors right now. So way to go Nikki. Thank you. Now, as I announced, was it last week, maybe the week before? In our last podcast, candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, also sent in a pledge. So two of the announced candidates have already sent a signed pledge to US Term Limits. And last week, while campaigning in Iowa, Ramaswamy posted a video bragging about signing the term limits pledge. Let’s hear it.
Vivek Ramaswamy: We’re in the middle of our bus tour here in Iowa, and I just gotta say, I am proud to have signed the term limits pledge favoring a constitutional amendment in this country that would limit Congressmen to three terms and US Senators to two terms, keeping fresh life blood in our government. It’s also a big part of the reason why I’ve said that I wanna limit even federal bureaucrats to working for no more than eight years, just like the US president is limited to those two terms, so it should as well be for US Senators, so it should be three terms for US Congressmen as well. It’s a great grassroots organization. This is what it’s gonna take to breathe the civic life blood back into our country. And that’s why I’m supporting it.
Philip Blumel: I love it. I can’t wait for the debates.
Speaker 4: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: Pressure and preemption are rising buzzwords in the Term Limits Movement. And there’s a good reason for it. Now that six states have passed a stand-alone Article V Convention call limited to congressional term limits, politicians in Washington DC are noticing what will happen when there’s 12 states or 24 states. Increasingly, observers and even politicians themselves recognize that states calling for an amendment proposing Convention under Article V of the Constitution puts a lot of pressure on Washington politicians to take the initiative to amend the Constitution themselves. Oh, but politicians will never term limit themselves, right? Well, I wouldn’t be too sure of that. I mean, what happens if 30 of the 34 states required apply for an Article V Convention on the subject of congressional term limits?
Philip Blumel: At that point, politicians will see the writing on the wall, they’ll see that it’s gonna happen anyway, and do they want to have a bunch of state legislators who want their jobs in Washington write those rules, or do you think Congress is going to get on their soapboxes and write the rules themselves? Well, at a recent forum in Maine with US Term Limits’ own Kenn Quinn, a bipartisan duo of politicians from that state agreed that Congress would act. US Representative Jared Golden, a Democrat, and State Senator Rick Bennett, a Republican, agree Congress would act preemptively if they perceive that the states have enough momentum to hold a Term Limits Convention.
Senator Rick Bennett: What happens is that once a certain number of states get to threaten an Article V Convention, Congress has historically said, “Okay, we hear you, we hear you. We’re gonna make the amendment ourselves.” And then the Congressional path that Congressman Golden has been leading on will take root at that point. So I think both of these are important to pursue at the same time.
Kenn Quinn: Those of you who may not remember, back in the 1990s, term limits was very popular around the country. 23 states passed laws, and most of them were at the ballot box to put term limits on their own congressional delegations. Maine did it as well. Twice the people voted for this. Unfortunately what happened, those laws got challenged. It went all way to the US Supreme Court. And in the decision, US Term Limits versus Thornton, the Supreme Court overturned all those state laws and ruled that the only way term limits can be imposed on members of Congress was through the amending provision of Article V. So for those of you that are not familiar with Article V, there’s only two ways to propose amendments, either two-thirds of both Houses of Congress need to propose it and then send it out to the states for ratification, that’s how we’ve had all of our amendments proposed up to this point, the second option is if two-thirds of the state legislatures apply for a Convention to propose an amendment, then the states can meet and propose that amendment, and then the same ratification takes three quarters of the states to ratify.
Kenn Quinn: So US Term Limits, we are advancing this both ways. We have an amendment in Congress that was introduced by Representative Ralph Norman from South Carolina, it’s HJR 11. And I wanna thank the Congressman for being one of the first co-sponsors of that amendment, that resolution, and also for signing our pledge. We have 130 members of Congress that signed our pledge saying they will vote for this amendment, so we’re making some really good headway. What I primarily focus my time on is the second option, which is getting the state legislatures to propose this without the consent of Congress. What a beautiful thing. We don’t need Congress to get this done. And so we had, and this just came out yesterday, an Article V application was introduced by Senator Bennett here, I wanna thank you for taking the lead on that, and I’m very encouraged by what’s been happening, so this is an application specifically for one amendment, term limits for Congress. And so we’re hoping that we’re gonna get down the field with this one. And my question to you, Senator, is why, first of all, why is this important, why do you think it’s important for the state legislatures to take this pathway?
Senator Rick Bennett: Because first and foremost, I don’t have a lot of confidence that Congress is gonna do this. It’s sort of antithetical to incumbent congressional interest by its nature, but part of the history that you didn’t relate is that a lot of the amendments to the Constitution that had been adopted started as Article V initiatives, because Congress is often loathe to act until they’re kind of forced to on any of these big questions. And I think you can generate… There’s much more connection directly to the people in the state legislatures, and so you can generate passion and interest in a given issue at the state legislative level, and then what happens is that once a certain number of states get to threaten an Article V Convention, Congress has historically said, “Okay, we hear you, we hear you. We’re gonna make the amendment ourselves.” And then the congressional path that Congressman Golden has been leading on will take root at that point. So I think both of these are important to pursue at the same time, but listen, it’s, I know that Congressman Golden is very accessible. We…
Senator Rick Bennett: By the way, our congressional delegation in Maine, people don’t realize this about how accessible all four members of our congressional delegation are. It’s unique. I talk to people from other states and they say like, “You can actually get your Congressman on the phone?” And it’s not just because I’m a State Senator, it’s like, people, you talk to people all the time, and I know that Senator Collins and the others do as well, they’re very accessible. And if you go to Washington to meet, chances are you’re gonna meet your actual member of Congress, not just a staffer. And so it’s not the same way in other states. [laughter] They’re a little bit more removed, a little bit more protected, a little bit more walled off. And so I think it’s really important for people to speak and it’s great, as you point out, Kenn, it’s wonderful that we have this alternative path because they have worked historically in tandem, and I’m happy that we can generate the interest in a formal way at the state legislative level to ask Congress to act, but also in failing that, to act ourselves.
Kenn Quinn: Yeah, that’s a great point. And actually I did a little research, 17 of our amendments have started through this process, so out of the 33 that had been proposed, 27 were ratified and became part of the Constitution, but 17 of them started through the states through the Article V application, the Bill of Rights being specifically the first time. Now, the difference between the application that we have and the amendment in Congress, I wanna explain the difference. The amendment in Congress, HJR 11, calls for limits, two terms for a US Senator, so that’d be two six-year terms for 12 years and three terms for a member of the house, so that would be three, two-year terms. So technically, one person could serve in Congress between both chambers, 18 years. Plenty of time to get the job done that the people sent you there to do. With the application that you’re sponsoring, that, we did not specify the number of terms. We want the states to have that discussion when they meet, and so that’s the path that we’re taking. And Congressman, I’m curious to get your intake on this, your view, with the pressure coming from the states, first of all, what do you think of that idea? And then secondly, what do you think is gonna happen? Do you think Congress will typically take the path of least resistance and propose it themselves?
Congressman Jared Golden: I don’t wanna demoralize anyone sitting around.
Congressman Jared Golden: I don’t think that the Congress is gonna do that, not this Congress and not any future Congress. I think it’s highly unlikely without a significant amount of pressure coming up from the American people and the easiest way to do that is through the state legislatures. So it’s either we [0:19:21.6] ____.
Kenn Quinn: So if we get close to the 34, what do you think will happen?
Congressman Jared Golden: I tend to take the cynical view of Congress. And nevertheless, I choose to go there, which I’ve come to the conclusion, makes me very optimistic, the fact that, a secret optimist, but I’ve got a lot of criticisms to offer of United States Congress and how things are done. So the cynical take is that if enough states are on the verge of calling a Convention of States for the purpose of visiting the issue of term limits, that the Congress might act to assume them, while grandfathering their current selves in without term limits, and let it take place with the passage of time, that sounds fairly accurate to me.
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Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. The Term Limits Convention bills are moving through the state legislatures. This could be a breakthrough year for the Term Limits Movement. To check on the status of the Term Limits Convention Resolution in your state, go to termlimits.com/takeaction. There, you will see if it has been introduced and where it stands in the committee process on its way to the floor vote. If there’s action to take, you’ll see a Take Action button by your state. Click it, this will give you the opportunity to send a message to the most relevant legislators urging them to support the legislation. They have to know you’re watching. That’s termlimits.com/takeaction. If your state has already passed the Term Limits Convention Resolution or the bill has not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to US Term Limits. It’s our aim to hit the reset button on the US Congress and you can help. Go to termlimits.com/donate, termlimits.com/donate. Thanks. We’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: Find us on most social media at US Term Limits, like us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and now LinkedIn.