When state Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, introduced a bill to double his own term limits from eight years to 16, he raised just one question: Why?
Surely, Grant doesn’t think eight years isn’t enough time to learn the job. It’s the same term limit imposed on the president of the United States. If an individual can learn how to be the leader of the free world in eight years, he can certainly learn how to be one of 120 House votes on matters of state government.
Those of us who don’t work for the government would probably get fired if we came to our boss in year eight and said, “Sir, I still don’t know how to do this job.”
Or maybe Grant believes eight years isn’t enough time for legislators to put Florida on solid fiscal footing. That claim doesn’t hold water, either. A recent study by George Mason University says Florida has the best fiscal condition of any state with a population of at least 2 million. That means balanced budgets, prosperous economic conditions and few unfunded liabilities. On the most important state policy goals, the term-limited Legislature has been a success.
Perhaps Grant was striking a populist tone, and pitching longer term limits because it’s “what the people want.” There’s one big problem with that hypothesis: Floridians couldn’t be more opposed to lengthening term limits. Polling shows that 79 percent of state residents oppose giving legislators more time in Tallahassee.
The voters have said repeatedly that eight is enough, but Grant won’t listen. He’s moving forward with his 16-year amendment bill, while knowing it’s a direct attack on the will of his constituents. Rejection of the bill in a House committee would provide a contrast to Grant’s opportunism. It would remind Floridians that some in government still look out for them.
As this debate continues, anti-term limits politicians will prattle on about the importance of “experience.” What they overlook is that citizens who haven’t served in government possess the most valuable experience of all. They experience laws first hand, and know intuitively how policies can be tweaked and amended to best suit the needs of the average person. Those who work inside of the political playpen too often embrace the “go along to get along” mentality, while losing sight of the public’s best interest.
Now is the moment to act before Grant’s anti-term limits proposal reaches the November ballot. Citizens must get on the phones and tell him that Floridians don’t need to state their position on term limits again.
Putting an amendment on the ballot that the voters clearly don’t want is like inviting someone over to dinner and serving them a dish they don’t like. It’s downright rude. If the boss came over, we’d be even less likely to serve him something unpleasant. In this case, voters are the boss. Other House members should do what James Grant didn’t — show voters the respect we deserve on the issue of term limits.
Nick Tomboulides, 24, of Lake Worth, is executive director of U.S. Term Limits, a single-issue advocacy group based in Palm Beach. He has a degree in economics from the University of Connecticut.