House backs term limit change

Thursday, May 16, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Ten years after Missouri voters enacted term limits for the General Assembly, they will be asked to slightly alter the restriction.

The House voted 97-51 on Wednesday to let voters decide if some partial legislative terms should be exempted from counting toward the service cap.

The Senate had previously approved the measure but had to take a second vote because the House made a minor change. It passed 21-4.

There was little debate in either chamber. The question will automatically go on the November ballot.

The Missouri Constitution currently limits representatives to four two-year terms and senators to two four-year terms. At present, partial terms count as full terms, forcing some lawmakers out before they reach the limit of eight years of service per chamber. The limits apply only to terms won after 1992.

The House version would exempt a partial House term of less than one year and a Senate term of less than two years from counting against the cap. The original Senate measure would have exempted any shortened term.

State Sen. Sidney Johnson, D-Agency, said he preferred the proposal as he originally drafted it but didn't disagree with the House change.

Area legislators

Southeast Missouri representatives for the change were Republicans Lanie Black of Charleston and Peter Myers of Sikeston, plus Democrats Wayne Crump of Potosi and Denny Merideth of Caruthersville.

Seven area House members, all Republicans, voted against it: Tom Burcham of Farmington, Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau, Rod Jetton of Marble Hill, Rob Mayer of Dexter, Pat Naeger of Perryville, Mark Richardson of Poplar Bluff and David Schwab of Jackson. Three local Democrats were not present during the vote.

All three area senators -- Republicans Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau and Bill Foster of Poplar Bluff and Democrat Danny Staples of Eminence -- supported the amendment.

Merideth, who is term limited in 2004, is the only area incumbent to be elected to a partial term in his chamber. Because of the House change, he still wouldn't be eligible for re-election that year if voters approve the amendment.

The shortened-term exemption would apply only to a lawmaker's first term in a given chamber. Those already forced out wouldn't be able to return and serve a partial term.

The measure is SJR 24.

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