Senate vets have last hurrah
Sunday, January 11, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Once dominating the ranks of the legislature, career lawmakers in recent times have been an endangered species in Missouri. After this year, their kind will be all but extinct.
Longtime veterans were swept from the House of Representatives with the 2002 elections when the legislative term limits Missouri voters added to the state constitution in 1992 finally took full effect.
Because only half of the Senate's 34 seats are on the ballot each election cycle, however, many upper-chamber veterans received a two-year reprieve from forced retirement.
Ten Senate incumbents will be ineligible for re-election this year. That group includes two highly respected lawmakers who joined the legislature when John F. Kennedy was president.
Sens. Wayne Goode, D-Normandy, and John Russell, R-Lebanon, were first elected to the House in 1962. Russell, 72, moved to the Senate in 1976, and Goode, 66, followed in 1984.
Both men's knowledge of the intricacies of the state budget has proved crucial as lawmakers struggled to formulate spending plans amid declining state revenue in recent years.
At the start of the legislative session on Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, told departing veterans their skills will be needed again this year.
On the other end of the experience scale, state Rep. Terry Swinger, D-Caruthersville, was sworn in as the newest House member on Wednesday. Swinger, an optometrist who practices throughout the Bootheel, won a November special election to fill a vacant seat representing Pemiscot, Dunklin and New Madrid counties. His election fulfills an ambition of his wife, Sue, who unsuccessfully sought the seat in 1986 and 1988. She died in March.
Kinder distanced himself from a leaked strategy memo that suggested Republicans use every opportunity to attack Democratic Gov. Bob Holden and called on GOP leaders to push their priority bills through the legislative process during the session's first 30 days.
"It had no official status," Kinder said. "It was a contribution -- a rather fevered and overworked one -- to an ongoing discussion."
The memo was written by David Barklage, a GOP political operative from Cape Girardeau and longtime Kinder adviser. It became public last month when it was inadvertently e-mailed to Missourinet, a statewide radio news service.
Holden said a proposed package of taxes and other revenue-producing measures will be similar to that rejected by lawmakers last year. Key components included an additional 55-cent levy on a pack of cigarettes, higher taxes on casinos and the elimination of Missouri's casino loss limit of $500 per two-hour gambling session.
Holden said such targeted proposals would generate state revenue without affecting most Missourians.
"You don't have to smoke unless you want to," Holden said. "You don't have to gamble unless you choose."