How long does it take for elected officials to become so beholden to special interests that they put lobbies before the public interest, and should therefore be barred from running again?
Sixteen years, say two Missouri lawmakers, who have both proposed constitutional amendments to increase the current eight-year term limit in the state's House and Senate.
Similar proposals were put forward by Rep. Myron Neth, R-Liberty, and Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. The House passed Neth’s proposed amendment last month, 121-31, and if it clears the Senate, the voters will decide on a November 2014 ballot in a general election.
Missouri residents, by a wide margin, set the term limits for the General Assembly in 1992. Neth said he supported it then but now believes the quality of government can be improved with the increase.
“Sometimes there are unintended consequences,” Neth told the International Business Times. “We are finding by the time you get to the eight years those people who have good knowledge and you’re forcing them to leave or go to another chamber,” he added.
Former Rep. Ryan Silvey, who in 2011 began serving as chairman for the budget committee and helped balanced the state’s budget, is an example of a lawmaker with the experience of managing Missouri’s more than $20 billion budget who termed out. He is now a senator.
Neth said the lobbyists are now holding a lot of the institutional knowledge.
“People are jockeying for positions in the very first term because they are worried about their future,” Neth said. “I think it does a disservice to the citizens.”
But a representative for the conservative advocacy group Club for Growth told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the people have already spoken and “their will should be respected.”
Neth remains optimistic the amendment can make it to the ballot, but doubts supporters of the amendment can outspend big groups who prefer to see the eight-year term limit remain unchanged.