Monday, January 25, 2016

ACTION ALERT: Term Limits Convention to get floor vote!

It is decision time.

Will Florida become the first state to officially apply for the Term Limits Convention to propose a constitutional amendment to reform the U.S. Congress?

We will find out this week, as HM 417 and SM 630 have passed all four of their committee hurdles and have been scheduled for a floor vote in the House. We expect quick successive votes on the measures, with the first on Wednesday or perhaps even sooner. (I will update this blog post as additional information is available.)

Your state reps need to hear from you today!  Go here to look up your reps and send them a quick email message urging them to vote 'yes' on the Term Limits Convention memorial HM 417 / SM 630.

There are currently Term Limits Convention campaigns in eight states, but Florida is positioned to be first across the finish line. This would be a victory in itself, but just as importantly it will give impetus to the seven other campaigns.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Term Limits Convention approved by House committee, Brevard REC

Rep. Matt Caldwell
It was a big day for the Term Limits Convention today, as the bill calling for the Article V amendment convention (HM 417) passed its second and last House committee and won a unanimous endorsement by the membership of the Brevard Republican Executive Committee.

The bill was approved in the House State Affairs Committee in a 14-3 vote, with chairman -- and dependable term limits advocate -- Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Fort Myers) presiding.

In the Senate, the TLC bill (SB 630) already passed two Senate committees late last year.

The TLC is now expected to see floor votes in both houses of the Florida legislature during the 2016 session which opened this week.

If it passes both chambers, Florida will be the first state to apply for amendment convention limited solely to the issue of Congressional term limits. Upon application of 34 states, Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires that Congress "shall" call the convention for the purpose of drafting the amendment. The resulting amendment must be ratified by 38 states.

The members of the Brevard Republican Executive Committee applaud the idea and, with a unanimous vote, became the third county Republican Party to officially endorse the Term Limits Convention at their January meeting. Chairman Barbara Davis led the vote of about 80 BREC members.

Previous resolutions in favor of the TLC passed with wide margins in Palm Beach and Volusia Counties in 2015.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Palm Beach Gardens: Your vote doesn't count unless the old guard wins

In spite of a new voter-approved term limits law that was approved by nearly 80 percent of the vote, 4-term incumbent Vice Mayor David Levy is running for his fifth consecutive election to the Palm Beach Gardens City Council. The 2014 law, which is retroactive, limits council members to two consecutive elections to the council.

City cronies are circling the wagons for Levy, as his city attorney and city clerk, Patricia Snider, are arguing Levy can place his name on the ballot in spite of the new law. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher is permitting Levy's name to appear, saying it is up to the municipality -- that is, Snider -- to enforce its own election laws.

Levy's defense to irate voters is even more brazen. He is reportedly replying that if the voters don't like his illegal candidacy, he won't be able to win re-election.

In other words, the results of the 2014 elections didn't count and he is entitled to a do-over -- with different voters!

Levy's smugness about a do-over comes from the fact that he knows that March municipal elections attract a very low turnout, from some 7,000 in 2014 to as little as 3,000 in 2011. On the other hand, over 20,000 voted on the term limits law in the general election of 2014.

This is one key reason why municipal term limits are so important. Incumbents can turn out the vote of self-interested special interests in their districts and win repeated, lopsided elections as the bulk of the citizenry are busy taking care of their own lives, families and businesses. It is a classic case of the phenomenon of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs.

Levy's calculation -- based on the pre-term limits math of automatic victory -- is that even though law-abiding citizens won't like it, he'll win anyway. So, to hell with the voters. They probably won't even hear about the fraud until it is too late, if ever.

Please tell Palm Beach Gardens City Clerk Patricia Snider that she works for the voters of Palm Beach Gardens, not for David Levy and other longtime incumbents. She should respect the will of the voters and not place Levy's name on the ballot.

Send her an email by clicking here. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Palm Beach Gardens political math: 4 + 1 = 2 terms

That politicians can be shameless should be no surprise, but sometimes the brazenness of their efforts to hold on to their pedestals (and stipends) can still be jaw-dropping.

Case in point: Palm Beach Gardens Vice Mayor David Levy.

In Palm Beach Gardens in 2014, 79 percent of the voters in this northern Palm Beach County city approved a citizen initiative that limited city council members to two consecutive 3-year terms in office. At the same time, 68 percent of voters approved a second measure making the two-term limit retroactive. The message the voters were sending couldn't be any clearer.

Nonetheless, four-term council member and current vice mayor David Levy has just announced his candidacy for reelection to a fifth consecutive 3-year term.


Wait, there's more. When Palm Beach Gardens resident and term limits supporter Sid Dinerstein launched a legal complaint, Levy -- who won election in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2013 -- feigned surprise. "I thought it was fairly clear I could run," he told the Palm Beach Post.
David Levy

Levy is backing his statement by pointing out that he took a few months off back in 2012 so therefore the 2010 election shouldn't count. The problem for Levy is that the Palm Beach Gardens law was written explicitly to prevent such chicanery. The operative language states that "no individual shall be elected to the office of council member for than two (2) consecutive full terms."

Often term limits laws are written to limit politicians to serving two full terms in office, which gives sleazy politicians a pretext for claiming -- a la Levy -- that if they resigned a month or two early they didn't serve their full terms and hence could run again. Not so in Palm Beach Gardens.

But perhaps we should grant Levy some small praise. He is, after all, providing a public service by demonstrating exactly why term limits were needed in Palm Beach Gardens in the first place.

Palm Beach County voters are welcome to send an email to urge Levy to respect the law that they petitioned and voted for and to leave the council with dignity.

Monday, November 23, 2015

ACTION ALERT: Term Limits Convention approaches next committee hurdle

Fresh from a 5-4 victory last week before the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and gaining several important endorsements, the Term Limits Convention bill (SM630) is headed to the Senate Rules Committee for a hearing and vote on Thursday, Dec. 3.

If it gets an OK from this committee, the next step is a vote on the floor of the Florida Senate! Hence, next week's vote is critical.

Two of the pro-Congressional term limits votes from last week's committee are on the Senate Rules Committee, Sens. Joe Negron and Garrett Richter. There are 9 Republicans and 4 Democrats on the committee.

While certainly no guarantee, this partisan breakdown bodes well for the bill as two important county Republican parties, Palm Beach and Osceola, recently passed resolutions endorsing the Term Limits Convention. The Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida officially endorsed the bills as well.

The Term Limits Convention bills (SM630 in the Florida Senate and HM417 in the House) are official applications for an amendment convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution explicitly limited to Congressional term limits. If two-thirds of the states (34) call for such a convention, Article V states that Congress 'shall' convene it. There, delegates from all the states will craft a Congressional term limits amendment proposal that would be submitted to the states for ratification. If three-quarters (38) of the states do so, Congressional term limits will be added to the U.S. Constitution.

Click on each Senator's name below to send them an email expressing your support for Congressional term limits and urging them to support SM630. Look for the Email This Senator radio button in the left-hand column on the webpage or the contact bar if you are on your phone.

The Florida Senate Rules Committee

Sen. Don Gaetz (R)   Destin
Sen. Audrey Gibson (D)   Jacksonville
Sen. Jack Latvala (R)   Clearwater
Sen. Tom Lee (R)   Brandon
Sen. Joe Negron (R)   Palm City

Friday, November 20, 2015

Osceola County REC endorses Term Limits Convention as bills advance

Osceola REC Chair Mark Oxner
In an overwhelming voice vote, the Osceola Republican Executive Committee on Nov. 19 passed a resolution urging the Florida legislature to officially call for the Congressional term limits convention.

Their action follows a similar lopsided (79-1) endorsement from the Palm Beach County REC in October.

The resolutions are particularly potent after the Term Limits Convention bill in the Senate, SM630 introduced by Sen. Aaron Bean, has started an early advance through the committee maze that is expected to lead to a floor vote during the 2016 session. SM630 passed the Ethics and Elections Committee 5-4 on Tuesday and is headed to the Senate Rules Committee.

The House bill, Rep. Larry Metz' HM417, has not been heard yet, but has already picked up five cosponsors: Reps. Frank Artiles, Matthew Caldwell, Debbie Mayfield, Marlene O'Toole, Charles Van Zant and John Wood.

The bills are official applications for a convention of states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution explicitly limited to Congressional term limits. If two-thirds of the states (34) call for such a convention, Article V states that Congress 'shall' convene it. There, delegates from all the states will craft a Congressional term limits amendment proposal that would be submitted to the states for ratification. If three-quarters (38) of the states do so, Congressional term limits will be added to the U.S. Constitution.

The Sarasota REC considered a Term Limits Convention resolution Nov. 19 and is likely to take a floor vote at their January meeting. State Rep. Ray Pilon announced his support and likely co-sponsorship during the discussion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sen. Geraldine Thompson: term limits hero

On Nov. 17, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee took up the Term Limits Convention bill (SM630). This is the bill that calls for a national amendment convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution in order to enact Congressional term limits.

It started out fine but quickly went awry as the vice chair of the committee, Republican John Legg, suggested that the term limits convention may be part of a conspiracy to overthrow the constitution. He was followed by Sen. Jeff Clemens, a South Florida Democrat who has never shown any love for the second amendment, who asked if perhaps our right to bear arms could be threatened by consideration of Congressional term limits. What?

How the hearing took this this sour and darkly comical turn is unclear, but what is certain was that some senators wanted to talk about anything else that afternoon except for term limits. Perhaps the bipartisan popularity of the successful political reform makes it impossible for would-be professional politicians to tackle it in a straightforward manner. They have to obfuscate, confuse, baffle and confound to somehow malign a very simple issue that voters both understand and have long and positive experience with.

Just to be clear: A "convention to propose amendments" under Article V has no power whatever to make or change laws. According to Article V, it "shall" be convened upon the official calls of 2/3 (or 34) of the states. At the convention, delegates chosen and sent by the states can craft and suggest an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That's it. To become law, three quarters (38) of the states have to ratify the amendment.

Sen. Joe Negron was about to suggest a tabling of the issue for a saner day, when Sen, Geraldine Thompson announced she intended to support the bill and wanted a vote. She got it, and SM630 passed its first Senate committee 5-4.

That Sen. Thompson, a Democrat, would save the day should not be surprising. Polling (Gallup 2013) shows that some 75% of Americans support Congressional term limits, including 65% of Democrats and 79% of independents.

Most special interests are not ideological but instead purely self-interested, representing corporations, professional organizations and unions that seek special favors and benefits from lawmakers and are willing to pay for them one way or another. Protecting individual Americans from corporate exploitation is a central message of Democratic campaign rhetoric. Term limits regularly sever the cozy relationships between special interest lobbyists and decision-makers and greatly reduce their influence.

There is also a self-interested -- and completely legitimate -- component of Florida Democratic support for term limits that is, currently, unique to the party. Florida (like some other Southern states) was once solidly blue and started to turn Republican long before that change was reflected in the legislature, as the power of incumbency prevented rotation in office and blocked the changes in the voters views to be expressed. The enactment of term limits speeded up the transition because it improved representation of the people through open seats, competitive elections and the introduction of new people and ideas.

Now that the Republicans are in a solid majority in Tallahassee, nearly every session a GOP bill to lengthen and weaken term limits is introduced in order to thwart electoral competition and protect their position. But when and if the pendulum swings back to the blue among the electorate, it will be the fluidity that comes with term limits that will ensure the voters' will is reflected in a timely manner -- not a generation later.

With her timely vote for term limits, Sen. Thompson struck a blow for the voters, her country and her party.