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Book Files Bill To Term Limit Local School Board Members

Sen. Lauren Book discusses her annual "Walk in My Shoes" event to highlight sexual abuse and human trafficking. 3/5/18
Ryan Dailey

A push to term limit local school board members has gained a powerful Democrat: State Sen. Lauren Book. She's filed a constitutional amendment proposal to keep those board members from serving more than eight consecutive years in office.

Book’s proposal is identical to the house constitutional amendment proposal by Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini. The measures ask Florida lawmakers to put before voters a plan to term limit local school board members. Another Senate measure, by Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters, would put 12-year term limits on school boards.

“The President of the United States has an eight-year term limit.  So it just makes sense that no school board member needs to stay in office longer than the leader of the free world, and it’s great to see Sen. Book understands this as well and we’re encouraged by her sponsoring this," said Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director for the Florida-based group U.S. Term Limits. 

It cites polls in 2018 and 2019 that show moe than 80% of Florida voters support term limits for school board members. That support is widespread across political parties and independents.  The 2018 poll was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates. The 2019 poll by Pulse Research found only 10% of respondents supported 12-year term limits.  

The issue surfaced in 2018 as a recommendation by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. But the language was removed from the ballot because the Florida Supreme Court ruled the amendment’s ballot summary was misleading. It was also grouped with two other proposals.  

Opponents argue term limits for school board members take away choice from local voters, but supporters says the plan is meant to encourage fresh ideas.

Bills to term limit school board members were approved in the House last yeaer, but failed to gain traction in the Senate.

"Everyone senses there's a problem with incumbency," Tomboulides says. "There's a natural appeal among Democrats in making elections more competitive, to make elections more Democratic. And I think Sen. Book as a leader within her caucus, is a very valuable resource to make the case to her fellow Democrats that this issue is good for them and in line with their values." 

Book was unavailable Wednesday to discuss her bill. 

Currently, the Florida Constitution sets out term limits for the Governor, and state lawmakers. Both chambers would need 3/5ths of members to approve the bills before they could be placed on the November 2020 ballot. Sixty percent of voters would then have to sign off on them.

*Update: This story was updated at 1:30 p.m.  to include the interview with U.S. Term Limits and to note Sen. Book was unavailable to comment on her bill. 

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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