Lawmakers look to tweak term limits

On the same day that candidate filing opened for elected offices, state lawmakers debated term limits in a Missouri House General Laws committee.

The main argument from lawmakers presenting bills to the committee was to lengthen terms to create more institutional knowledge from lawmakers in state government.

“I’m for term limits,” said Rep. Myron Neth, R-Liberty. “I think they’re good. We’ve seen it in action, even though there’s downfalls in terms of learning curves and institutional knowledge.”

Neth presented a joint resolution that would retain Missouri’s law that elected officials cannot serve more than 16 years in the House and Senate combined, but it would allow an individual to split his service in any proportion between the two chambers. Current law limits an individual from serving more than eight years in any one chamber of the General Assembly.

“I think this is a good thing for government, and a more effective way to do so,” Neth said.

Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger, R-Lake St. Louis, filed a bill similar to Neth’s.

Tim Fischesser, executive director of the St. Louis Municipal League, said Gatschenberger’s bill would preserve talent already in the Legislature.

“We think doing something like this makes sense because you conserve institutional memory by reducing turnover,” he said.

Neth and Gatschenberger’s bills would apply to current lawmakers, but Rep. Michael Butler presented a bill that wouldn’t apply to the state’s current legislators.

Butler’s bill would also extend the maximum number of years in the General Assembly to 24 and would raise the maximum number of years served in each house to 12.

“It’s an ability for us to listen to constituents and actually achieve what they want us to do before it’s time to go home,” said Butler, D-St. Louis.

Another joint resolution, sponsored by Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, would change the maximum terms of service in the General Assembly to 24 years. It would also change terms of service in each house to three, four-year terms.

“Every year we talk about saving money for taxpayers,” said Lichtenegger, R-Jackson. “I believe this would allow us to save money and sharpen our legislative authority.”

Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California, presented legislation that would change the length of terms in the House and set term limits for statewide elected officials to those of no more than two, four-year terms.

“The second thing is that it would move the election of the secretary of state and treasurer to nonpresidential years,” Jones said. “I feel like the people of the state of Missouri in presidential years are bombarded with commercials and ads, and a lot of times individuals that are very good candidates are often overlooked and the public doesn’t get the opportunity to sit down and analyze who they’re voting for.”

All of the term-limit legislation discussed before the committee would require voter approval.

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