A proposal by Rep. Art Swann to allow the state commissioner of education to waive enforcement of laws applying to public school systems has been attacked on a bipartisan basis by colleagues who say it probably violates the state constitution.
The bill (HB1970, as amended) is entitled “The Public School Achievement Flexibility Act”. It would empower the commissioner to grant high-achieving school systems a “waiver of any state board (of education) rule or statute that inhibits or hinders the desired flexibility for the school.”
The Maryville Republican said that state law already allows charter schools and achievement school districts, which are under state supervision because of low performance, to ignore regular rules and laws
“If it’s good for charters, why shouldn’t it be good for public schools?,” he said, describing the legislation as “leveling the playing field.”
It took about three minutes to deftly destroy the latest effort to impose term limits on state legislators. The maneuver, accomplished with bipartisan collaboration, assures that no term limits can be put in place for another decade or so and that there’s really no record of anyone being against the idea.
The effort was HJR625, crafted by Rep. Art Swann, R-Maryville, with a good bit of thought. Basically, it provided that state representatives — in exchange for term limits — would have their term of office changed from two years to four years, then be limited to serving no more than three terms or 12 years.
Swan brought the bill before the House State and Local Government Subcommittee last week and gave a brief explanation. Whereupon House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said the measure seemed to have some merit, but also raised questions and declared it needed to be studied. He thereupon made a motion that the proposal be sent to “summer study.”
Rep. Art Swann’s push for term limits on state representatives was effectively killed by the same subcommittee Wednesday. On motion of House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, the panel voted to assign the bill to a “summer study.”
Swann, R-Maryville, has proposed term limits as an amendment to the state constitution with an eye toward having it on the statewide ballot in 2014. Because of the rules for adopting constitutional amendments, the subcommittee action effectively assures it cannot be put to a vote any earlier now than in 2018.
“It’s hard to get people to make a decision to work themselves out of a job,” said Swann afterwards.
Swann said he had been optimistic about advancing the measure in the 107th General Assembly, which concludes this year, but some colleagues who had indicated they would support HJR625 had changed their minds.
Rep. Art Swann, R-Maryville, says some colleagues have urged him not to push for a vote on a plan that could impose a 12-year term limit on service in the state House, but he plans to move forward anyway.
Swann’s proposal, HJR625, filed Feb. 1, proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would increase the term for a state representative from two years to four years, but then impose a three-term limit in consecutive service.
Under the plan, if the Legislature approves, the question of amending the constitution would go before voters in the 2014 election and then, if approved in the referendum, take effect for legislators elected in the 2016 elections.
Straightforward term limits for legislators have been proposed several times in the past, but never reached the point of a floor vote. Swann said his proposal, by coupling longer terms with the limits, should have a better chance.
Also, the plan calls for implementing term limits on a phased-in basis “so you don’t end up flushing everybody out all at once,” he said.
Further, he said, he addresses concerns voiced by opponents of term limits about losing “institutional knowledge” since the proposed amendment would not apply to state senators.
The idea of term limits, Swann said, is highly popular “with the people who elect us” in the general public and among many legislators, “particularly freshman Republicans. Still, there is enough opposition among other lawmakers – such as those asking him not to push for a vote – to make passage “an uphill battle.”
Swann said he intends to put the proposal “on notice” for a vote in committee next week.