Florida House panel approves term limit for county commissioners

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State Representative Michelle Salzman R-Pensacola, sponsor of HB 57. // Credit: The Florida Channel 1/19/24

The Florida House Local Administration, Federal Affairs & Special Districts Subcommittee voted unanimously in favor of a proposal early Friday that would enforce a 12-year term limit for county commissioners. The bill passed after amending the restriction from eight years to 12.

County officials, including many county commissioners, spoke against HB 57 in the meeting. The officials believed the people in each county should decide the term limits for their commissioners, not the state government.Wakulla County Commissioner Ralph Thomas voiced his concerns with the proposal. “House Bill 57 gives nothing, nothing at all, to the voters that they don’t already have. It only takes away from them. House Bill 57 is an in-run on the will of people.”

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However, members of the panel pointed to the history of term limits for public officials in Florida. The power of incumbency influenced the decision, as well.

Republic Representative Jeff Holcomb spoke from his perspective as a former county commissioner. “I’ll be flat-out honest with you. When you’re an incumbent, you have a big advantage. I know donors who donated to me but they said they donated to the commissioner that I opposed, who was an incumbent. They gave him money anyway because there was a fear of retribution.”

In the middle, two Democrats on the panel expressed hesitancy with the bill. Dan Daley, one of the pair, described his position. “I’ll be honest, I am torn on this bill and, candidly, others that unilaterally impose term limits because I can argue both sides of it. I believe, in part, you have term limits every time you’re on the ballot. I also understand the power of incumbency and something like 90% of incumbents getting reelected.”

Elsewhere, a Florida Senate subcommittee advanced a bill outlining an eight-year term limit for county commissioners. Simultaneously, the House’s version of the bill will advance to its next committee stop.

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