Justices Uphold 8-Year Term Limits Ruling Opens Door to Legislative Shuffle

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TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Supreme Court cleared the way for massive turnover in the Florida Legislature and Cabinet yesterday with a ruling that upheld an eight-year limit on terms.

The court unanimously ruled that the citizens' interest in limiting terms outweighs the interests of candidates and the rights of voters to vote for those candidates.

It rejected the idea that voters approved the term-limit constitutional amendment primarily because of the limitation on congressional terms, which was later stricken by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This theory was based on "nothing more than conjecture and speculation," the Florida court said.

"This is democracy," Max Linn, president of Florida Citizens for Term Limits, said in hailing the decision.

Robert Boyd, who filed the suit on behalf of voters in three Senate districts, said the limit on legislators was not what the citizens voted for when they approved the amendment.

"It's going to dramatically change the political landscape of Florida," Boyd predicted.

While many incumbents and candidates to succeed them were already preparing for the limits to kick in next year, the 7-0 ruling cleared away any remaining doubt.

Although the term-limit constitutional amendment was approved in 1992 by a 77 percent majority of the state's voters, it is not until next year's election that the results will be felt.

Sixty-five legislators are being forced out by term limits next year, and more will fall two years later, as will four of the six Cabinet members. All 120 House seats and half of the 40 Senate seats are up for election next year.

Northeast Florida representatives barred from running for re-election in 2000 are Joe Arnall, George Crady, Jim Fuller, Tony Hill, House Speaker John Thrasher and Steve Wise. Senators who can't seek re-election in 2002 are Jim Horne and Betty Holzendorf.

Term limits do not mean the end of the line for current officeholders, however. Many are just gearing up to run for other offices.

At least one, Senate Dean W.D. Childers, R-Pensacola, is contemplating a write-in campaign that would get around the prohibition against appearing on the ballot after eight years in office.

Thrasher and Wise have already opened campaign accounts to run for the seat that Horne will vacate in three years.

Wise said he expects to end up in a different district from Thrasher when the Legislature redraws district lines in 2002.

"We're not going to run against each other," Thrasher said. "I'm not sure I'm going to run."

Arnall said he is giving some thought to running for mayor in the future, and Fuller said he would consider running for Congress if U.S. Rep. Tillie Fowler gives up her seat in the future.

Fuller said he was a friend of Fowler but was still miffed that her original campaign helped get term limits passed and now she is thinking about running for another term.

"Tillie Fowler started the whole thing, and she's staying in and the rest of us have eight-year term limits," Fuller complained.

Rep. George Crady, D-Yulee, said he plans to run for Nassau County supervisor of elections.

Meanwhile, former Jacksonville City Council members are lining up to run for the vacated legislative seats. Mike Hogan, Terry Fields, Don Davis and Dick Kravitz have already opened campaign accounts for the Legislature.

Lawmakers who were losing their seats said term limits could rob the Legislature of much of its accumulated knowledge. …

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