School board term limits could go to voters

School board members would be limited to eight years in office under a proposal that moved forward Wednesday in the state Constitution Revision Commission.

The proposed constitutional amendment (Proposal 43), sponsored by Commissioner Erika Donalds of Naples, would limit county school-board members who are elected on Nov. 6 or later to no more than two consecutive four-year terms.

Donalds, a member of the Collier County School Board, said the proposal is similar to a constitutional amendment adopted by Florida voters in 1992 that limited state lawmakers and Cabinet members to two terms. The governor is also limited to eight years in office.

“People do know what’s best for them,” Donalds said in response to arguments that the public does not understand the ramifications of term limits. “That’s why they support term limits in such huge measure, basically at every level of government.”

She said voters can compare the Florida Legislature with Congress, which does not have term limits.

“They can see very clearly the difference between having term limits and not having term limits,” Donalds said.

Commissioner Chris Smith, who opposed the measure, said limiting the terms of school board members and other elected officials gives more power to lobbyists and staff who remain in the system while elected officials come and go.

“It empowers lobbyists. It creates more and more lobbyists. I don’t think the public truly understands the ramifications of term limits,” said Smith, a former state senator from Fort Lauderdale. “It’s one of those things that sounds good. Everybody wants to throw the bums out.”

Commissioner Jeanette Nunez of Miami voted for the measure.

“I am the poster child of term limits. It works,” said Nunez, who has served eight years as a Republican member of the Florida House. As she leaves office later this year because of term limits, she said she looks forward to “the new crop of individuals who will bring fresh ideas and a new perspective” to the Legislature.

Commissioner Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, a former state senator who voted against the measure, said term limits are not necessary for school board members who are accessible to local voters.

“If you mess up, they will get you out. They will limit your term. We don’t need to do it. We need to let the people do it,” Joyner said.

The commission voted 27-6 to advance the proposal to the CRC’s Style and Drafting Committee. If approved by the committee, the measure will return to the full CRC, where it must win support from at least 22 commissioners to be placed on the November ballot.

Donalds withdrew another proposed constitutional amendment (Proposal 33) that would have required all school superintendents in the state to be appointed, rather than allowing counties the current option of appointing or electing the superintendents.


Information provided by The News Service of Florida.