Term limits were approved by Missouri voters back in 1992 and took full effect after 2002. A new study finds that those changes have not had much of an impact on the demographic makeup of the General Assembly. St. Louis Public Radio's State Capitol reporter Marshall Griffin spoke with the author of the report, Dr. David Valentine with the University of Missouri's Institute of Public Policy. Valentine says the study found that there has only been a slight increase in the number of women serving in the Missouri House and Senate:
The trend of women serving in the Mo. Gen. Assembly
"In the (19)70's, there were almost no women in the General Assembly...by the 80's and 90's, the proportions increased, up to 20% to 25% of both chambers...(in) the era that term limits took effect, it changed, but it didn't really have any trend that you could see -- even today there's not much of a trend you could see to it...term limits argued that the reason why numbers of women would increase is because opportunities would increase, more vacant seats...in the Senate, at the end of the last decade, that really was the case, the number of female senators was highest it's ever been...that may be a temporary aberration, but it's certainly one you can say where term limits did what its advocates argued it would."
On bills that would tweak term limits, i.e., allowing a lawmaker to spend four years in the House and 12 years in the Senate, or all 16 in one chamber, or any other combination besides eight maximum per chamber
"Tweaking can have a positive effect...the problem with term limits today is that it lops off the group of people who have just been there long enough to learn to be the kinds of people who know enough about the legislative process...we're lopping off our best potential leaders, and we're forcing less experienced people, if they wish to be, to immediately drive towards leadership positions...many of them don't have the knowledge and experience required to be good legislative leaders."
On using the Mo. Gen. Assembly as a "first" or "second" career
"Term limit supporters desired to get rid of career politicians, and they did do that, (but) what we see is more 'second career' people, especially in the House, somebody who retires early from whatever career they had...there's also more people running at an earlier age; not only is it a second career, it's a 'first career' more than it's been in the past...in the pre-term limits era, when you got elected to the Senate, you stayed there...some people ran for higher office, but you didn't resign to become a lobbyist or resign to go back into the private sector...you stayed there because it was rewarding, a lot of prestige, not a lot of money, but a lot of value for the (elected) individual...now what we see is people (who) know they can't stay, and many of them say 'this is a good place to start, I'll run for the Senate and serve my eight years, and then I’ll go on and do something else, build from that.'"
The full study can be viewed here.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport