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Dean of Senators Looks to Repeal Term Limits

February 17, 1999
By: Chris Pelikan
State Capital Bureau
Links: SJR 1

JEFFERSON CITY - Seven years after Missouri voters passed term limits on a 1992 ballot, one of Missouri's most senior lawmakers wants voters to reconsider the issue.

Sen. John Schneider, D-St. Louis County, has filed a joint resolution in the Senate to repeal term limits if voters approve. Elected to the Senate in 1970, Schneider is the chamber's dean -- having served longer than any current member.

"Repealing term limits, I think, is absolutely essential and the thing we have to do is begin to educate the public as to how much damage that the public will suffer as a result of term limits," Schneider said.

Schneider cites the value of experience in state legislation and says that term limits favor special interest groups and lobbyists.

"Beside the fact of just eliminating people with experience, term limits will shift power to lobbyists, there's not going to be any term limits on lobbyists, the only people who are going to know how to do this stuff are going to be the lobbyists around here," Schneider said.

Besides his fear of special interests, Schneider argues that term limits will produce a new breed of legislators that will be unresponsive to their public.

"Right now, we have half of the Senate who never will run for office again, so for four years they're in office and are not responsive to the public. One of the most important powers that (legislators) have is that they have to come back to the people and be judged on what they did," Schneider said.

The proposed legislation would retain term limits in the instances of two individuals. The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro-Tem of the Senate would only be allowed to serve four year terms in their positions.

"Those are two offices that have enormous power and we've seen in the past where persons holding that office can use the power of the office in order to keep themselves in office," Schneider said.

Sen. Ed Quick, D-Liberty, holds the title of current president pro tem of the Senate and has expressed no opposition to Schneider's proposal.

"I think it's wrong to take away people's choice," Quick said, in regards to term limits. In addition, Quick said that limiting the amount of years one can serve as the speaker of the house and the president pro-tem of the Senate is fine, in his opinion.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Ehlmann, R-St. Charles, argues that the people of Missouri have already spoken on this issue.

"The people have voted on this issue and we're living with it. Legislators take themselves too seriously," Ehlmann said.

"When I'm gone someone will replace me, when John Schneider's gone someone will replace him, too," Ehlmann said.