I am not a fan of term limits.
I understand the argument from those who say we need a law that limits the power of incumbency. They say the longer a politician stays in office, the more likely they are to accumulate so much recognition and money that it becomes almost impossible to beat them.
What they’re really saying is that voters need protection from themselves. I have a problem with that because it still comes down to this basic fact: We already have term limits. They’re called elections.
No matter how long a politician has been in office, voters still have the final say. If they decide that lawmaker is doing good work, there should be no reason that person can’t stay on the job.
I mention this because of what is happening with the Hillsborough County Commission. Three of the board’s seven members are in a game of musical chairs that on the surface seems a goofy way to stay in office.
There is a loophole the size of the Grand Canyon in the Hillsborough charter that allows a commissioner restart their term-limit clock if they are elected in a different district than the one they currently serve.
That’s how we get this: Sandy Murman and Victor Crist have announced intentions to run for two of the board’s three countywide seats because they are prohibited from running for a third consecutive stay in the single district each represents.
While that is going on, long-serving Commissioner Ken Hagan is mandated to leave the countywide seat he has held for two terms, so he will run in District 2. That’s the district Hagan represented when he was first elected to the Commission in 2002 before he had to run for the at-large chair in 2010 and, oh man … this makes my head ache.
State Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa, who has mentioned once or 300 times that he might prefer a Commission seat to the one he currently occupies in Tallahassee, is considering a push to outlaw the chair-swapping that Crist, Murman and Hagan are using.
In theory, that means they could keep jumping from seat to seat and stay on the board until they are called to the Great Beyond. Lee has said the practice violates the spirit of the charter and he is considering a push for an amendment that would stop that.
There is some merit to Lee’s argument, but I think a better idea is doing away with mandated term limits. Voters would still be able to pass judgment at the ballot box and it would stop the kind of silliness we’re now seeing.