Lawmakers again considering statewide school board term limits

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Preparing for the March 5 start of the annual legislative session, a House panel took up a proposal Wednesday that would ask voters to place eight-year term limits on county school board members.

The House Pre-K-12 Quality Subcommittee is considering the proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 229), filed by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills.

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Sabatini said school board term limits are overwhelmingly supported by Floridians.

“Eighty-two percent across the board want the term limits, and so we've seen it with a lot of the constitutional amendments over the past few years, particularly marijuana, some of these other topics -- it's important that we listen to what the people want,” Sabatini said.

Duval County is currently the only county to have term limits in Florida.

If approved by lawmakers during the spring session, the measure would go on the 2020 ballot because it is a proposed constitutional amendment.

An identical term-limit bill (SJR 274) has been filed in the Senate by Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley.

The state Constitution Revision Commission last year also proposed term limits for school board members. But the Florida Supreme Court blocked the proposed constitutional amendment from going on the November ballot because of a dispute about another education issue in the proposal.

Lawmakers now want to see if the issue can stand on its own in the 2020 election.

Chris Doolin, who represents small counties, said that instead of forcing term limits statewide, the constitutional amendment should instead give local governments the authority to decide for themselves.

“So that what happens in Dade or Broward isn't what's mandated for Dixie or Levy or Lafayette or anywhere else in the state,” Doolin said.

Others suggested eight years was too short a term, saying they’d support a 12-year limit.

“Peer-reviewed research also shows that people reach their peak performance in any position at about 10 years,” said Rep. Jennifer Webb, D-St. Petersburg.

In 2018, 90 percent of school board incumbents won re-election, with many running unopposed.