Philip Blumel: Another term limits wave hits the beach. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits movement. This is episode 224 published on October 23rd, 2023.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Just last year, the Florida legislature voted to impose eight-year term limits on all of the state’s school boards. This matches the term limit of the state legislature, the governor, and lots of cities and counties throughout the state. Yes, this is why we often refer to Florida as the Term Limits State. Oh, and don’t forget that Florida was the very first state to approve the Term Limits Convention resolution. That’s the one calling for an amendment writing convention under Article V of the Constitution. Limited to the subject of congressional term limits. But Florida’s not done yet. A new bill has been introduced by State Representative Michelle Salzman of Pensacola. It’s HB57. That would impose eight-year term limits on all of the counties that don’t already have them. Because this is the Term Limit State and has Ron DeSantis as the governor, this bill is gonna get a serious hearing.
Philip Blumel: As DeSantis wrote in a newspaper op-ed back in 2018 when he was still in the US house, he wrote, “I’ve found that no issue unifies like term limits. The people of Florida, regardless of party affiliation, have reached the same verdict Benjamin Franklin did centuries ago. Rotation in office is the life blood of our republic. No elected office whether federal or local is ever better off when run by career politicians.” The idea has been bouncing around in Tallahassee for a while. In fact, the bill to term-limit the school boards originally included language to limit county commissions as well. But it was dropped throughout the legislative process. This new bill would start the term limits clock in 2024. So previous service would not count against county commissioners, just like the school board’s bill did. And it’s also just like the state legislative term limits that the voters in the state approved by 77% back in 1992.
Philip Blumel: The clock starts ticking when the law goes into effect. 12 Counties, including most of the largest ones, already have term limits. Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange. Yes. Even Pinellas, which refuses to recognize the fact that 72% of their voters approved eight-year term limits in 1996 even after the Supreme Court of Florida unanimously upheld their legality. But I digress. Only a few counties in Florida have the right to choose term limits themselves. That’s a key point. Under the Florida Constitution, Counties are creations of the state and do not have sufficient local autonomy to permit citizen initiatives. But 20 counties have been approved as so-called charter or home-rule counties and have been given such power by the state. 12 of the 20 charter counties have passed term limits so far. This bill will solve the Pinellas problem too, and also extend term limits over the rest of the state’s counties.
Philip Blumel: Finally, in Pinellas and elsewhere, the voters of Florida will have their voices heard. County commission term limits have been very successful and are therefore very popular in the counties that already have them and of course is popular in every corner of the state. So, you know, keep this in mind when you hear the Florida Association of Counties kvetching about the bill. A staffer for the association told Florida politics that “term limits should be decided by voters, not Tallahassee politicians”. But that’s just rhetoric. Every time voters have gotten the opportunity, they’ve overwhelmingly approved of it, but currently only a handful of counties have that opportunity. Legally, they can’t vote in term limits. And so the state having seen the success in the counties that have it is implementing it for them as is their want. Three counties of the 12 counties with term limits have 12-year term limits currently, but these will be reduced to eight with the passage of this legislation.
Philip Blumel: Again, previous service will not count against the current commissioners. Term limits are a good policy for county commissioners and school boards for all the same reasons as they are for legislatures, governors, and of course, someday hopefully, the US Congress. Voters want competitive elections, they want new ideas, they want younger leaders, they want more transparency, they want fewer career politicians, they want greater access to participating in meaningful campaigns and even access to run for office themselves that a entrenched incumbency prevents. But there’s a special advantage of term limits that exists at all levels, but nowhere more than locally. John Adams called this, “the university in rotation” that is rotation in office generates, as Adams put it, ex-politicians of plenty. What that means is that the movers and shakers of a community take turns taking the responsibility of guiding local affairs, and then they pass on that responsibility to a neighbor.
Philip Blumel: The institutional knowledge of the community government is dispersed. It’s not locked up in a long-term small cadre of nearly undefeatable incumbents. This produces greater transparency, less corruption, but also a more educated community. Thanks to Representative Michelle Salzman, we will be tracking this bill as it makes its way through the legislature in Tallahassee. Stay tuned. Next, we have been watching the chaos trying to elect a new speaker of the US House, and we are very interested in watching the case of Jim Jordan of Ohio because, you know, if he had won, and it seems like in time of recording this, that he has just dropped out after three votes in which his candidacy was rejected. But if he had won, we’d be in the position of having a pretty solid term limits supporter as the speaker of the US house. Well, that’s not a shabby position to be in.
Philip Blumel: Jordan, after all, had voted yes a few weeks ago as a member of the Judiciary Committee on the HJR 11 term limits Amendment Bill. He also spoke in favor of it. I ran that clip on a previous episode. With a speaker who actually supported the bill and pushed it, we wouldn’t have had three pledge signers too busy to show up for the judiciary vote. And remember, we only lost by two votes. So should term limits supporters be disappointed that Jordan didn’t get the job? Maybe. Because last I heard, the rising candidate in that race now is Byron Donalds of Florida. And Byron Donalds has been a hardcore activist term limits supporter since his days in the Florida legislature. His wife, Erica Donalds, is a education activist in Florida who was instrumental in the campaign to impose term limits on the school boards of the state.
Philip Blumel: And Byron Donalds has never missed a term limits vote. He signed the Florida pledge to support the term limits law in that state. He got elected to the US House and signed on the US term limits pledge to support the US term limits amendment. And he’s a co-sponsor of that bill. So we’re not that disappointed about losing Jim Jordan. Isolating the issue of term limits, which is what we do on this podcast. I can’t imagine of a better house speaker than Byron Donalds. If the goal is to term-limit the US Congress. We will be watching this very closely. Speaking of the judiciary vote, we cannot allow the Nasty 19 who sunk the floor vote on the congressional term limits amendment think that no one noticed their treachery. And it is treachery. No other words fits. We have an issue, a time tested issue, that’s been successful in 16 state legislatures and 80% of the people are in favor of this, including large majorities of Democrats, republicans, and independents and these self-interest politicians, because they’re self-interested politicians, would not give this idea even a vote.
Philip Blumel: Go to termlimits.com/take action please. Once again, the very first action item on the list is HJR 11 and the site assists you in quickly and easily sending a message to all of the Nasty 19. Adam Schiff needs to hear from you. So does Darrell Issa. So does Tom McClintock also of California. So does Jerry Nadler of New York, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas needs to hear from you, Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin, Harriett Hageman of Wyoming, Hank Johnson of Georgia, Stephen Cohen of Tennessee. Note that just like support for term limits among the people, opposition to term limits amongst politicians is bipartisan. One last note. I wanna bring to your attention another new development over the past year or two regarding the ascendant term limits movement. Right now we have 24 states represented by a US term limits state chair. I participated in a call with the group last week and I’m reminded how impressive this group is.
Philip Blumel: Their role is different than our staffers and our other volunteers. They’re basically the spokesperson for the movement in their respective states and aim to create an environment where the term limits movement is unified and amplified. The state chairs deal with media. They bring volunteers to the Capitol to talk to legislators. They hold events, they write the op-eds, etcetera. Now does your state have a US term limits state chair? Go to termlimits.comstate-chairs and find out. While you’re there, peruse the list. The term limits movement is rising. The caliber of these folks is additional proof. Www.termlimits.com/state-chairs.
Speaker 3: This is a Public Service announcement.
Philip Blumel: Okay. I mentioned Pinellas County earlier. I often think of Pinellas as one of the most corrupt counties in America for their brazen refusal to recognize the successful referendum that they had there in 1996. The term limits is the most successful initiative movement ever in the history of the United States by a long shot. So while support for term limits does not necessitate support for direct democracy, the two ideas have marched down the streets of history together. This is one reason why so many politicians resent direct democracy. Therefore, it should not be surprising that Paul Jacob, who ran US term limits during the 1990s, would be a strong proponent of the initiative process and direct democracy. Paul Jacob is basically the Nick Tomboulides of the 1990s. Back when state after state was passing initiatives to terminate their state legislatures and even their federal congressional delegations, it was Paul Jacob on the case. He was on the job when the Supreme Court shot down these referenda in US term limits versus Thornton in 1995. Paul has been an activist and a champion for direct democracy through his organizations, Citizens in Charge and others, and also his website thisiscommonsense.org. In this six-minute talk, Paul tells the story of an intersection of term limits and direct democracy and how the success of the former led to a backlash by politicians to the latter.
Paul Jacob: Democracy, human rights, just never quite seem to be secure anywhere, not in the United States, not anywhere in the world. There’s always a fight. And when we talk about direct democracy, we almost always recognize it as a check on representative democracy, on electing candidates to make decisions as battle politicians. And the rub is really serious because in the United States of America, when citizens pass a ballot measure, instead of elected officials saying, “Oh, well clearly the people have spoken. Our bosses, the people who we work for, have now set the record straight. Now we know what they want.” It turns out they don’t care oftentimes what we want if it cuts against their interest. And of course the whole point of initiative referendum is to check the power of government, the power of the legislature, to go around the legislature and direct to the people.
Paul Jacob: And North Dakota, one of the 50 states right on the border of Canada, is a good case in point. In 2018 Measure 1 passed 54 to 46 percent. What Measure 1 did was to create an ethics commission. Now, the legislature didn’t like that at all, but the public did like it. So the legislature came back and said, “We need to change this process.” And they put on the ballot a measure that would’ve required that after voters pass an initiative, like they did the Ethics Commission, it would go to the legislature. And if the legislature approved it, then it would become law. Or if the legislature rejected it, well then it would go back to the voters for them to make a final decision. Now, when it was first introduced, it didn’t have the part about going back to the voters to make the final decision, but it was a way to let the legislature have more and more power. That went down…
Paul Jacob: 62% voted against it, 38% in favor of it. So it was defeated at the polls. Come 2022 the State Chamber of Commerce decides they’re gonna put a measure on the ballot to create a 60% vote. They failed to get the signatures. ’cause even with all the money they had, it’s not as easy as they try to pretend it is to get all those signatures and to get qualified. But the term limits effort in the state managed to do that. And that was on the ballot and that got 63% of the vote and is now part of the North Dakota constitution. Well, fast forward to today, and there are all kinds of bills in the North Dakota legislature. There is House Bill 2030 which would actually fine the members of a ballot measure committee a thousand dollars a piece if they turned in signatures and failed to get enough validated to make the ballot.
Paul Jacob: Now, not that they were fraudulent, not that they committed some nefarious act, but that they simply failed to get enough signatures, they would be fined by the state. A message that, “Maybe you don’t want to do this after all because we’ll punish you.” “If we can block you from getting on the ballot we’ll punish you too.” Then there’s Senate resolution 4013 which is a constitutional amendment which would create a 67% vote that it needed to pass a constitutional amendment by initiative so that if they got 33% plus one to vote against it, they win, you lose. But it would also mandate that you cannot pay anybody anything to gather signatures. Now, some folks like that, they don’t like the idea that you can pay people, but the US, I like it just fine, the US Supreme Court voted nine to nothing unanimously to strike down a Colorado law decades ago that tried to stop any sort of payment to a petition circulator to do that job.
Paul Jacob: So it flies in the face of what’s clear constitutional law because they don’t really care. They’re looking to put impediments in people’s way. Another measure, the last one I’ll mention, is House Bill 1452 which exacts a tax of 90% on any money given to a ballot measure in North Dakota from any person in the United States of America who happens to live outside of North Dakota, a 90% tax. These are the sorts of things that happened way back in the 1960s when you had places like Alabama trying to find out who was giving money to the NAACP and to causes for integration of the races. And so this is the sort of thing that states have no business trying to wall off their states from any other influence. And what’s the problem? Well, there’s no problem among the public. They like these measures on the ballot.
Paul Jacob: They voted for ’em and they’d like to keep voting for ’em. And when the legislature tries to wreck the train and destroy their democracy, they vote no. But it’s silly. It’s dangerous to have people in public office who care so little about democracy who are willing to blow it up if they don’t get their way. And this is not unique to North Dakota. It’s across the board among politicians in the United States of America. And we have to create a new ethic that says “when the voters say something, as an elected official I respect that, or I am gone”. And so there’s a lot of work to be done to protect direct democracy, but a lot of that work needs to be focused on how do we create the rest of the democracy, the representative democracy that has enough respect for the people to allow it all to function.
Stacey Selleck: Like the show you could help by subscribing and leaving a five-star review on both Apple and Spotify. It’s free.
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 are watching. That’s termlimits.com/take action. If your state has already passed the term limits convention resolution or the bill’s 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 @UStermlimits. Like us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and now LinkedIn.
Philip Blumel: USTL.