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MO lawmakers want to adjust their term limits

By   /   April 11, 2013  /   4 Comments

CAPITOL CONTROL: Missouri legislators believe they could better serve if allowed four terms in one chamber.

CAPITOL CONTROL: Missouri legislators believe they could better serve if allowed four terms in one chamber.

By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog

ST. LOUIS – A move to allow Missouri lawmakers to serve the 16 maximum years at the Capitol in one chamber may have bipartisan support, but it will be up to voters to make the change.

Missouri’s term limits law now prevents a legislator from serving more than eight years in either the House or Senate, but two proposed constitutional amendments aim to change that.

A House Republican and Democratic senator both spoke about their proposals before the Senate Rules Committee this week, arguing that lawmakers can be more effective if they could spend the maximum time in the Missouri General Assembly in one chamber or the other.

“Right now, the institutional knowledge lies with most of the lobbyists,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis.

Missouri Watchdog reported Monday that Nasheed has accepted more gifts from lobbyists than any other Jefferson City lawmaker through the first two months of 2013.

Rep. Myron Neth, R-Liberty, said it takes time for legislators to become experts in such areas as the state budget, and have to start anew if they move from the House to the Senate or vice versa. Neth said he supported implementing term limits, but believes the original idea can be improved upon with this amendment.

“Right now, once we get that knowledge, we cannot use that knowledge to effectively govern,” Neth said.

NETH: Supported term limits, but believes the public would be better served by this adjustment.

NETH: Supported term limits, but believes the public would be better served by this adjustment.

His measure has already made it through the house, by a 123 to 31 vote, and if the Senate concurs voters would consider the amendment in the general election in November 2014.

Missouri residents implemented term limits in 1992, but St. Louis County Municipal League lobbyist Shanon Hawk pointed out at the hearing that voters were able to choose between “term limits or no term limits. They didn’t have this option.”

David Valentine, author of a 2011 report on the impact of term limits for the Missouri Legislative Academy Institute of Public Policy, concluded that term limits have hurt the level of knowledge in the legislature, not reduced lobbyist influence and created a new, non-legislative career orientation among lawmakers.

Many legislators seek jobs as lobbyists after their terms end, prompting a proposal for a “cooling-off period” in an ethics reform bill that would make representatives and senators wait at least two years before accepting such employment.

“Term limits achieved none of the sponsors’ principal objectives and has significant negative consequences that were not anticipated by either supporters or opponents,” Valentine wrote.

Patrick Ishmael, policy analyst for St. Louis-based free market think tank Show-Me Institute, thinks lawmakers have a good idea. He told Missouri Watchdog that the present term limit system causes institutional knowledge to be lost quickly, allowing special interests in the Capitol to usher new legislators through the lawmaking process.

“That can be very bad news for taxpayers,” Ishmael said.

Not everyone agrees with the plan. Melanie Abrajano, a spokeswoman for Club for Growth, noted that voters approved those term limits overwhelmingly in 1992. Her Washington, D.C. based group supports smaller government.

“The people have spoken pretty clearly, and their will should be respected,” she said.

Contact Johnny Kampis at johnny@missouriwatchdog.org.  For more Missouri Watchdog updates, visit Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for our free newsletter with investigative reports and breaking news alerts.   

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Johnny Kampis is a content editor at Watchdog.org, and is helping to start the organization’s Alabama Watchdog bureau in his home state. Johnny previously worked in the newspaper industry and as a freelance writer, and has been published in The New York Times, Time.com and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

  • Madelynn

    No representative should be in office for that many consecutive years. Even the 8 yrs. they get now are at least 4 too many. I think they should all have 2yr term limits with at least 2 yrs between terms.

  • MO Citizen

    ridiculous at best…You should know the job when you get it,,,Quit using tax payer money to go partying and then decide some day you will do your job..No one in any business can get a job and claim they don’t know enough to do it in a 2 yr term..Do the job the people put you there for since they are paying you out of their hard earned paychecks and quit playing the “poor me” game..It’s a job, not an adventure, not disney land on our money..McCaskill threw our freedoms to the UN, Blunt took bribes for 3 yrs from monsanto,,,I say as a Missourian,,,Any, and I mean any, politician found to be in opposition to the constitution, accepting bribes and using funds for anything other than what a people vote on, should be arrested, tried and sentenced just as any citizen of the state, would have done to them.

    I think it should be a 2 year probation period to start for any politician, then if they proved to have done an outstanding job, they can get another 2 years or get the boot.
    Advocating to make a law that you can get 16 years in that job has corruption written all over it.

  • watchercitizen

    Get rid of the lobbyists who evidently are telling the legislature what to do, keep term limits, make the legislature listen to their constituents and never let them serve more than 2 terms. Quit letting them serve 2 in house, then go to senate. 2 terms total limit. The founding fathers never thought people would make a career out of serving. If you get rid of lobbyists, you don’t have to worry about former legislators serving there. Do you know the story around Jack Abramoff? If not, check it out.

  • OldTimerMO

    This would be the most stupid thing these Politicians have put forward in years. No Politician should be on office more than eight years total. That is half our problem now days you cant get rid of them now after they give hand outs and pay increases to all the Public Unions. Also NO former Politician or his staff should be allowed to be a Lobbyist in the State of MO for at least five years after leaving office.