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8-Year school term limits pass

Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton

By Ryan Dailey

News Service of Florida

May 1, 2023

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate on Monday gave final approval to a bill that would impose eight-year term limits on county school-board members, readying the issue to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Legislature and DeSantis last year approved a measure that capped board members’ terms at 12 years. During discussion Monday, Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, questioned why lawmakers were coming back with eight-year term limits this year.

“Why are we back here so fast on this?” Pizzo asked.

Senate sponsor Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, suggested that eight years was always the target of lawmakers.

“I think that eight years was the preferred landing spot. We didn’t get that last year. We’re doing it this year,” Ingoglia said.

The Senate voted 30-7 to pass the bill (HB 477), with five Democrats joining Republicans in backing the measure. The House voted 79-29 in March to pass the bill. The five Democrats who supported the bill Monday were Pizzo; Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Davie; Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens; Sen. Rosalind Osgood, D-Fort Lauderdale; and Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said she thinks eight-year term limits is the “right number of years.”

“After all, the Legislature is term-limited out at eight years, and what’s good for us is good for pretty much anybody else,” Passidomo told reporters after the measure passed. “I’m in favor of term limits. And since we (state lawmakers) do eight years, why not?”

Monday’s approval came during a legislative session that has included lawmakers pursuing various other changes dealing with school boards.

For example, the Legislature last month approved a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to shift to holding partisan school-board elections. Lawmakers’ approval put the measure on the 2024 ballot. If approved by voters, the amendment would do away with a requirement that school-board candidates run without party labels. Partisan elections could begin in 2026.

Supporters of moving to partisan school-board races argued that partisan politics already are inherent in campaigns. During last year’s elections, DeSantis took the rare step of endorsing dozens of conservative candidates — many of whom went on to win their races.

Another measure (HB 411) seeks to change a requirement that school-board candidates have to live in the districts they are seeking to represent at the time they qualify to run. The proposal, which would require candidates to live in the districts at the time they assume office, needs House approval before it could go to DeSantis.

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