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Term limits legislation advances in Senate


A proposal that would extend term limits for state legislators to 12 years easily passed its first Senate committee Tuesday, but even the sponsor of the constitutional amendment says the measure faces an uphill fight to become law. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, on a 6-2 vote, passed the legislation (SJR 902), which would add four years to the current eight-year term limits.

Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican who is sponsoring the bill, said the current term limits have weakened elected lawmakers' ability to influence what happens in state government. "What has happened in my time in this process is that I've seen where lobbyists become more influential in the process than some members themselves," Garcia said. "Staff have also become more influential than members themselves."

Despite bipartisan support on the committee, though, Garcia conceded the amendment is still a long way from getting the support of a three-fifths majority in both the House and the Senate and the approval of 60 percent of voters in a referendum. "I know it's a long road," he said. "I know it has a long journey ahead of it. But I think it's worth having the conversation, both here and in the House and across the state of Florida."

At least one senator said he wants the measure to go farther. Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said he would like the state to extend the term limits to 16 years. "The optimum, best term limit is an election," Hays said. The legislation would only effect the terms of lawmakers first elected in 2016 or afterward