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City Council member Matt Schellenberg
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Feb. 9, 201612:00 PM EST

Schellenberg will withdraw term-limits bill tonight; wants focus on initiative for pension fix

by: David Chapman

Since October, Matt Schellenberg has pushed for voters to decide whether City Council members should be able to serve three consecutive terms instead of two.

After months of waiting and approval from four council committees (with some tweaks), it was ready for a final vote tonight.

But Schellenberg said Tuesday afternoon he plans to withdraw the bill for now, instead allowing voters to focus solely on passing a half-cent sales tax extension.

That push is being made by Mayor Lenny Curry in order to pay down the city’s $2.7 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. If successful at the Legislature — it’s received support so far — voters would decide on the extension if council approves the idea.

“I think when I look at the politics of it, the most important thing the city needs to do is get that half-cent sales tax done,” said Schellenberg. “Anything that interferes with that is a distraction … and I’m not sure I want that distraction.”

An amendment passed at the council committee level would have the sales tax extension and term-limits initiatives on separate ballots — one in August, one in November, with the pension-related pay-down having first option.

Even so, Schellenberg said it would still be a distraction and all messaging to Jacksonville voters needs to be about the sales tax initiative.

“If people feel uncomfortable or think (the term-limit extension) is self-serving, I don’t want that to conflict,” he said.

He said when he talks to people in his Mandarin district, he hasn’t been talking term limits — just the extension. Coupled with how the effort in Tallahassee has gone, he said he made the decision in the past week. He said neither Curry nor anyone in the administration asked or talked to him about the idea.

Despite believing he has the votes and the bill being good public policy, it will have to wait, he said.

The timing just isn’t right.

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