JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's Senate - with 31 of its 34 members facing a term-limit ouster by 2002 - voted to give themselves a four-year term-limit extension.
By voice vote, and with little opposition voiced, the Senate gave first round of approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that would extend term limits from eight years to 12 consecutive years.
70% of voters in Missouri adopted to establish the limit in 1992. Before, a senator could serve unlimited terms. If the proposal clears both chambers, Missourians would have to vote on the issue again.
Sen. John Schneider, D-St.Louis County, sponsored the bill. He said that an eight year term narrows senators' ability to understand the legislative process.
"Whether you agree with term limits or don't agree with term limits", he said, "eight years don't give enough time to develop the expertise necessary to proper represent the people."
Schneider said that experience is one of the main skills legislators must have.
"Anybody that has been here very long time at all comes to find out what experience means here," said Schneider, "when you are dealing with a seventeen billion dollar budget."
Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, the only senator who spoke in opposition, questioned Schneider about his concerns.
"How have you come to the conclusion that term limits are bad, when we really haven't had any time that has illustrated term limits are bad?"
Steelman, one of the only two Missouri senators that doesn't have to leave until 2006 under current law, said she would leave after eight years even if Missourians decide to extend the term limit.