Florida Senate committee advances bill to limit terms of county commissioners

(The Center Square) — A bill that would put term limits on Florida county commissioners passed a key hurdle in the Senate Committee Rules on Monday.

Senate Bill 438 is sponsored by state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill. It would introduce term limits for county commissioners. It would require certain counties to hold a referendum election to ask voters if they approve or disapprove of term limits in their county.

In the bill’s text, it says that a person is prohibited from being on a ballot for reelection to the office of county commissioner if they had served in that office for eight consecutive years. The person would also have a waiting time of at least two years before they could run for the county commissioner’s office in another county.

While introducing the bill to the Senate Committee on Rules Monday, Ingoglia introduced an amendment that would allow constitutional counties to put the question of term limits to voters this coming November, as they currently do not have the authority to do so.

Marion County Commissioner Kathy Bryant opposed the bill. She told the committee that not once in all her years as commissioner has she received a request from a constituent to introduce term limits.

“[The bill] is a solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist,” Bryant said. “In my 14 years serving Marion County, out of nearly 8,000 emails that have come into my office, there has not been one asking for term limits for county commissioners… The thought that a county commissioner can’t be fired is just incorrect.”

Ingoglia previously stated during the bill’s passage through the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections in January that the lack of term limits at local levels prevents communities from going out and finding the next generation of leaders.

“When you have somebody who is in office, she or he may be there for 26 years, there’s no end in sight for that term, so then people stop looking for people as potential replacements,” Ingoglia said. “The lack of term limits is a chilling factor to have the local communities find and recruit people to eventually take their place.”

Ingoglia said that term limits are very popular with voters because they do not want people to serve in government for an eternity and added that it helps society raise future policymakers.