Change proposed for Missouri House, Senate term limits

By State Rep. Bruce Sassmann, Missouri’s 62nd House District
Posted 12/15/21

This year, I’m introducing legislation to change the term and term limits of Missouri Senators and Representatives.  

My proposed House Joint Resolution, HJR 77, would change the term …

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Change proposed for Missouri House, Senate term limits

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This year, I’m introducing legislation to change the term and term limits of Missouri Senators and Representatives.  

My proposed House Joint Resolution, HJR 77, would change the term of the representatives from two years to four years, equal to the Senate. Term limits for both the House and the Senate would be changed from eight years to 12 years.

Prior to 1992, there were no term limits in Missouri. Currently, members of the House can serve a maximum of four two-year terms, while members of the Senate can serve a maximum of two four-year terms. Term limits swept career politicians out of the legislature, but there have been some unfortunate side effects.

Many new legislators find themselves unprepared for the complicated and detailed work we do during our legislative session. We vote on hundreds of bills, and vote on a multi-billion dollar state budget.

Every day, I learn something new about state government.

If the voters in my district send me back to Jefferson City for four consecutive terms, I’ll keep learning until my last day on the job. After accumulating eight years’ worth of knowledge, I’ll be replaced, and my district will be represented by someone new. This person will start from scratch, just like me, and spend the next eight years learning.

However, I’m surrounded by un-elected lawyers, lobbyists, and bureaucrats who’ve been in Jefferson City for many years. They don’t have term limits. 

They were here before I ran for office, and they’ll be here after I leave.

Right now, many of these people know more about state government than I do. This is not a recipe for good, accountable government. I’m accountable to the voters of my district every two years, but the permanent bureaucracy in Jefferson City is not.

 Term limits, while well intentioned, actually took power from democratically accountable legislators, and gave power to un-elected lobbyists and bureaucrats. 

One long-time witness, reporter, and historian of the Missouri legislature thinks the voters got it wrong in 1992. Instead of imposing term limits on the entire legislature, he argues that we should have imposed term limits on powerful legislative leadership, like the Speaker of the House and committee chairmen.

Missouri voters overwhelmingly support term limits, and overwhelmingly oppose career politicians. My House Joint Resolution is a compromise. It establishes term limits somewhere between too short and unlimited. If the resolution moves through the complicated legislative process, the resolution will appear on a ballot, asking the voters for their final approval.

I urge you to examine this proposed change to our constitution. If we made a mistake in the past, we have the chance to correct our error. I look forward to the conversation, and I welcome any feedback you may have.

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