Missouri lawmakers ,again, are tampering with term limits.
If Sir Isaac Newton had a been a political scientist instead of a physicist, his first law may have been a lawmaker in office tends to stay in office until removed by an outside force.
The outside force can be voters, in an election, or term limits.
In Missouri, a constitutional amendment was approved by voters in 1992 to limit total service in the House to eight years and total service in the Senate to eight years, with total legislative service limited to 16 years. Service prior to the amendment’s effective date was not included in the calculations.
Prior to the amendment, dating to Missouri’s admission into the Union in 1821, lawmakers were not subject to term limits.
We did not support the imposition of term limits for lawmakers. Although we acknowledge the advantage of incumbents, we favor the power of voters to end legislative terms at regular election cycles.
We do, however, support the will of the voters, who amended the constitution and adopted term limits.
Thus far, including during this session, we have heard no new arguments that weren’t advanced by term limit opponents in 1992.
Those arguments include these: Lawmakers face a steep learning curve before they become effective; limits could abruptly terminate efforts on behalf of constituents; and limits will deplete institutional memory and knowledge in the legislature.
The institutional memory argument is the strongest, but it has not proved particularly problematic.
Among new proposals this session are bills to expand the overall limit to 24 years; remove the designated limits in each chamber; alter the length of terms; and revise the offices decided in an election cycle.
None of these proposals is necessary.
No evidence suggests circumstances or the intent of voters have changed since 1992.
Lawmakers’ self-absorption with self-serving issues is among the reasons voters adopted term limits in the first place.
Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.