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Chris Doolan, Lobbyist & Florida Legend: Speaks Against Term Limit Bills Filed in Tallahassee

Caution sign: Caution, term limits ahead

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Chris Doolan has been a household name in small county governments for four decades. As the lobbyist for Florida's small counties and small school districts, there does not appear to be an issue where he can't recite the history or give you an opinion.

During the February 23, 2023, North Central Florida Regional Planning Council monthly meeting, after the elected and appointed North Florida officials finished their taxpayer-funded fried chicken dinners, Mr. Doolan spoke about legislation affecting small counties. Everyone listened.

High on Mr. Doolan's agenda were term limits, the bug-a-boo that gives most elected officials the heebie-jeebies.

Term Limits: They are before the legislature

Bills you want to know about:

SB 1110: term limits – county commissioners

HB 477: term limits – school board members

HJR 31: partisan elections – school board members

The first bill Mr. Doolan took exception to was SB 1110, which established term limits for all county commissioners in Florida's 67 counties.

Mr. Doolan asked if term limits for county commissioners were unconstitutional. He answered himself.

He said, “Well, counties are mentioned in the Constitution, and it says you're working as there shall be five; you will have elections; and the terms will be four years. The elections will be conducted as provided by law. So, go figure.”

Mr. Doolan continued, “They termed school board members last year. We fought that. Let me tell you why."

Chris Doolan
Small county expert Chris Doolan explains current Florida legislation.

On April 25, 2022, Governor DeSantis signed CS/HB 1467, limiting school board members to 12 consecutive years.

Mr. Doolin explained his spin on school board member term limits. It was clear he was also referencing county commissioner term limits while, at the same time, he was articulating the position of the small counties he represents.

Mr. Doolin said, “This is the spin on this."

“You don’t want to protect the position. It is unnecessary government restriction - regulation of the people's right to choose. An individual should have in America the right to run for office if they meet the qualifications, they pay a fee, they get signatures, they ought to be able to run.”

Mr. Doolin continued, “There should not be an arbitrary timeframe that kicks somebody out of office. And I can tell you these term limit things. I don't like to admit this, and I wouldn't under the school board. And we fought that for eight years. And the term limit guys were offered 12 years two years ago, and they said, ‘No, we're not gonna take that.’ Well, they took it last year because that's what they had to take.

‘You know, really - you're gonna have a difficult time finding people to run, and I don't want to disparage anybody, but there are some folks out there that might just jump in there. You know, and I'm just sayin’, I mean, people have the right to choose.”

"Are you going to do it for everybody?"

Mr. Doolin said, “So that doesn't affect city commissioners.”

He continued, “This isn't a suggestion, but you know, once you amend the bill and put in term limits for sheriffs; term limits for clerks; term limits for property appraisers; term limits across the board, you're gonna do it for everybody?

Mr. Doolin asked, “You think the sheriffs are gonna sit around for something like that? Never. No way. So, we'll see what happens.”

And One More Bit of Legislation: Partisan School Board Elections

Mr. Doolan wasn't quite finished. “There's a bill - House Bill 31 - partisan school board elections. Right now, they're non-partisan. If you don't know who's a Republican or a Democrat runnin’, then - you know - in this day and age, you know who it is, but you don't - it's gonna bring more money, more competition - I guess; more ideology more - you know - it's gonna bring more politics into school board elections. Those are pretty much the ones.”

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