Term-Limited Representatives and Senators Reflect on Past Eight Years
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Term-Limited Representatives and Senators Reflect on Past Eight Years

Date: May 11, 2016
By: Nicole Shaddy
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - As the 2016 legislative session comes to a close, 22 representatives and three senators will take their seats on the chamber floors for the last time.

Due to legislative term limits, legislators can only serve eight years total in the chamber.

During their last week, some representatives and senators reflected on their years serving in the General Assembly. 

"There's so much to learn, so much to do," Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, said. "You're just working away and then you take that final election in 2014 you realize that now you're coming up here in 16...  you're two days away from the final gavel going down and it's really a sense of accomplishment."

"It seems like just yesterday I was trying to find out where my office is," Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis City, said. "You know the thing that I'm going to miss most about being a representative here is actually the friendships that I've made over the years, whether they're Republicans or Democrats. It's almost as if we've been in the same class together for eight years and now we're graduating and moving on to our next stage of life."

"This last week is bittersweet," Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said. "I've really enjoyed being a senator and before that a House member. There's a lot of things I'll miss but some things I'm not going to miss so it's a logical time to draw this to a conclusion so I'm really happy about my service."

Pearce said he will miss the ability to help out Missourians on a one-to-one basis the most.

Flanigan said he's most proud of what he's accomplished as the House Budget Committee chairman.

When he arrived in 2008, he was one of only two freshman representatives to serve on the Budget Committee, which is responsible for the state's $27.3 billion budget.

Flanigan became the budget chair at the beginning of the 2015 legislative session.

"Yeah I think that's quite an accomplishment," Flanigan said. "Not many men get the opportunity to lead a budget committee, much less one of that size."

Colona said his time serving as a representative has been bittersweet, because he said he leaves without accomplishing some of the things he set out to do.

He is the only openly gay representative, and he voiced his frustrations with the way LGBT issues are handled in the state during a committee hearing on the failed senate resolution, SJR 39.

SJR 39 would have allowed wedding-related businesses to deny service to LGBT couples based on religious grounds.

"Big business has for years trying to explain to folks that if you want to retain the best and brightest employees from across the country and across the world, we shouldn't discriminate," Colona said. "And you know here we are this year we defeated SJR 39, which was a true testament to the way that this system does work, but on the other side of the coin, the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act didn't even receive a hearing. So that's why it's bittersweet."  

The nondiscrimination act would have included sexual orientation and gender identity in the state's law prohibiting discrimination.

Flanigan said his biggest piece of advice to incoming members would be to take time to understand the process and the history behind legislation.

"I think the first piece of advice I'd give to someone coming in is just to stop, take a deep breath and listen. Observe what the process is in the building and not be so quick to be the smartest person in the room, because you're not," Flanigan said. "And also I would tell people that there's no such thing as new legislation. There's no such thing as a new tax credit or new tax or a new way to approach how you handle county government or the bureaucracy. It's all been done before."

Colona said his biggest advice would be for incoming members to maintain a sense of humility.

"Before you were an elected official, you had a set of beliefs, a set of values, a set of morals on how to conduct yourself and what is appropriate and what is not. It is very easy when you walk through these doors, when everybody tells you all your jokes are funny, every outfit is spectacular and every idea is the best thing since sliced bread, it is very easy for you to get full of yourself," Colona said. "So I would suggest to the folks coming in to just remember one thing, and that is humility. Just be humble, remember your roots. You are the same person today when you walked through this door as you are that person that went to the secretary of state's office to put your neck on the line and run for public service."

He said that humility extends to working with members across the aisle.

"Don't assume when you walk through the doors of the General Assembly that just because someone is from another party that you can't work together on the issues that are important to the both of you," Colona said.

Pearce said he thinks term limits are not good for legislators, because of the learning curve associated with the lawmaking process.

"It takes quite a while to learn this process and I think that by churning people in and out quickly I think it hurts the overall function of government," Pearce said.