One senator says term limits have made legislators more unwilling to compromise
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One senator says term limits have made legislators more unwilling to compromise

Date: May 15, 2009
By: Emily Coleman
State Capitol Bureau

Intro: With a session wrapping up at the Missouri Capitol that was dominated by filibustering, verbal attacks against legislators and the Senate being virtually held hostage by the House, some legislators are saying term limits are to blame.

Emily Coleman has more from the state Capitol.

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Some legislators said the term limits -- which were adopted in 1992 in a constitutional amendment -- have made legislators more partisan and less willing to compromise.

Western Missouri Senator Luann Ridgeway said that term limits give legislators a deadline, forcing them to move quickly if they want their ideas put into action.

 

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Description: "There's a greater sense of urgency, I think, to really push forward your agenda and legislation you want or, in reverse, to really put your foot down and stop bad things from happening."

Another Republican, Columbia Senator Kurt Schaefer, agreed.

He said that term limits have lessened the importance of seniority.  As a freshman senator, he said he can accomplish more early on than he would have been able to if there were no term limits.

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Description: "When you come in as a freshman, you've got to hit the ground running and you pull just as much weight as everyone else. And that allows someone like me to get some of the things we got this year and have a good year."

Schaefer said Democratic Governor Jay Nixon told lawmakers when he was a freshman legislator, he wasn't allowed to speak for the first two years.

Out of all of the current legislators Democratic Representative Chris Kelly of Columbia has served the longest. He was first a member of the House back in the early 1980s before term limits were instituted. He ran again last year.

He says that term limits have made some less concerned with being legislators and more concerned with being Democrats or Republicans.

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Description: "The body is much more hyper-partisan because the people spend more time in caucus, finding out what they're supposed to - how they're supposed to vote and what they're supposed to think."

One senator said it is unlikely for term limits to get taken off the books because the voters like them.

When the voters approved term limits in 1992, they voted for them with a 75 percent margin.

However, if some of the legislators could have their way, they'd do away with term limits or lengthen the time given.

 


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