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Two Lawmakers want term limits on ballot again

December 02, 1999
By: Hollie Maloney
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - In case you changed your mind about the length of time lawmakers can serve under term limits, two senators want to give you a chance to vote on it again.

Sen. Danny Staples, D-Eminence, introduced a resolution to the legislature that would allow voters to decide if lawmakers could stay in the capitol as long as they want -- provided that, once they have passed the limit, they get a petition when they seek reelection.

Sen. John Schneider, D-St. Louis County, proposed another resolution asking voters to extend the length a lawmaker can serve form eight years to 12 consecutive years.

Either of these measures could be used as a vehicle to propose a total repeal of term limits during the next legislative session. Since term limits are emblazoned on the state constitution, any change in them would require the OK of Missouri voters.

In 1992, Missourians overwhlemingly approved term limits, limiting the time lawmakers can spend in each chamber to eight years. At least 18 states have have adopted term limits.

Supporters of term limits say it will get new faces in office who aren't tied to special intrest groups. Opponents of term limits say bureaucrats and lobbyists will become more powerful because they generally will know the system better than inexperienced lawmakers.

Staples was unavailable for comment. Attempts to reach Schneider in his St. Louis office were unsuccessful. Both senators will be term-limited out in 2002.

Despite the tremendous voter approval, many lawmakers have never been happy with the idea. Some in the legislature favor reforming or even repealing term limits, but the idea has yet to make much headway in the legislature.

House GOP Leader Delbert Scott, an opponent of the proposals, said the voters made up their mind when they voted over 70 percent to enact term limits.

"I think if it is sent back to the voters it would come back 80 percent," the Lowry City lawmaker said.

Rep. Matt Blunt, D-Springfield, agreed, saying he is adamantly against the proposals.

"(Changing term limits) is not what the people want us to do," he said. "It's important the legislature doesn't spend time undoing what the people did."

Sen. Bill Clay, D-St. Louis, said that while he hasn't studied either of the two new measures, he said some of his constituents are saying maybe term limits aren't such a good idea.

"Perhaps the entire issue should go back to the voters," he said.

Some lawmakers say public attitudes toward term limits appear to be changing.

Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said that at the time the vote was taken, there was great hostility toward the incumbents, especially at the federal level.

"The anger for term limits seems to be subsiding," he said.

Kinder, who favors term limits, said even if the vote was already taken, it is within the power of the legislature to bring the issue before the people again.

"Part of the process is that we can revisit the issue," he said.

There is confusion over whether Schneider's proposal would only expand the term limits from eight to 12 years, or whether it would allow term limited lawmakers, like Schneider, to serve an additional 12 years.

Dave Klarich, R-St. Louis County, said the measure could restart the term limit clock that's currently ticking on lawmakers.

"It potentially would allow for another 12 years," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Elhmann, R-St. Charles, agreed saying there may be yet another loophole centering around Schneider's use of the term "consecutive."

"You may be able to lay out for a term and come back and serve," he said.

Last session, Schneider filed a similar proposal, but that idea was defeated in committee.