House endorses setting lower age to be legislator

Thursday, April 18, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Voters would be asked to lower the minimum age for election to the state Legislature under a measure given initial House approval Wednesday.

It's an idea whose time may have come, several House members said as they noted that voter-approved term limits are forcing dozens of legislative incumbents from office this year.

Since the Missouri Constitution was adopted in 1820, candidates have had to be at least 24 on election day to run for the state House and at least 30 to run for the state Senate.

Rep. Tom Villa's proposed constitutional amendment would lower the minimum election-day age for both chambers to 21.

"There is nothing magic about the current law," said Villa, D-St. Louis, who is 57. "With the advent of term limits, we can use all the help we can get here."

Budget Committee Chairman Tim Green, D-St. Louis, was a 24-year-old college student when he first filed as a House candidate and 25 when he was elected. Now 38, Green said Wednesday he had wanted to run long before he was eligible.

The measure requires final House approval before going to the Senate and potentially before voters this November.

"If the voters in the district want to elect this person, who are you and I to say this person is not a qualified candidate?" Rep. Tim Harlan, 53, D-Columbia, asked rhetorically.

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