YOUR OPINION: Without New Blood In Government, Voters Fear Complacency, Corruption
By Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits // July 19, 2016
77 percent of Florida voters passed term limits
Recently I had lunch with a veteran whom I consider a mentor.
I asked him: “Did you vote for term limits on state legislators back in 1992?”
He said “yep, of course.”
I followed up: “When you took that vote, did you intend for a man to be able to serve six years in the State House, eight years in the State Senate and then run for the State House again?”
His jaw dropped and he glared at me as if I had just spoken Latin.
Sadly, though, this scenario is no gag. It’s the resume of Thad Altman, candidate for the Florida State House in District 52. Altman has served in the Florida Legislature continuously since 2003.
When 77 percent of Florida voters passed term limits in 1992, their message was clear. They wanted members to serve for a short time, then go home to make room for fresh faces and ideas. Without new blood in government, voters feared the institution would grow complacent and corrupt. Taking one look at Congress confirms they were right.
But not every legislator understood the meaning of term limits. Some viewed it as a thorn in their side rather than a mandate from the people. While his colleagues were planning their futures outside of politics, Thad Altman got busy planning how to undermine the spirit if not the letter of the term limits law.
He’s now back on the ballot for District 52 and favored in a four-way GOP primary against Brian Hodgers, Monique Miller and Fritz Van Volkenburg. As Altman knows, any incumbent with name recognition and a rolodex of special interest friends has an advantage over scrappy outsiders.
Voters should be alarmed by Altman’s stance that term limits are not a law to be respected, but a challenge to be overcome with the right amount of craftiness. Each session in Tallahassee, a small group of lawmakers hatches a plan to weaken or eliminate the people’s term limits law using deceptive ballot language. It never gets anywhere because the public is so opposed.
But this time, Altman has indicated he may participate in such an effort. When we sent our Florida term limits protection pledge to all of the candidates, Altman was the only candidate in District 52 who wouldn’t commit to protect the eight-year limit. That means he wants to take the existing loopholes in the law – the ones he’s exploited – and make them even bigger.
So, how does this affect the voters? Is Brevard County ready for a #NeverThad movement?
That would be premature. The aim of term limits has never been to remove a specific politician from office, but to get citizens thinking about the institution of public service as greater than any one person.
When George Washington term-limited himself out of office after eight years, he didn’t do it to follow a law. No law existed for presidential term limits at that point. He did it to set an example for future leaders and show our country what statesmanship can be.
Washington was a leader who did the right thing even when the law didn’t require it. Now, the law does require it and lawmakers like Altman don’t seem to care.
The voters have come down firmly in favor of citizen legislators over career politicians. While Altman has stuck around too long to shake the careerist label, that doesn’t mean he can’t show respect for the people’s term limits.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Tomboulides serves as Executive Director of U.S. Term Limits, which is based in Melbourne, Florida. There he oversees the organization’s national grassroots activism efforts in support of a constitutional amendment to term limit the U.S. Congress. He also serves as Editor of the Term Limits National Blog and his work on term limits has been highlighted by the Heritage Foundation, Breitbart, USA Today, the Orlando Sentinel and more.