Term Limits Push Out Lawmakers
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Term Limits Push Out Lawmakers

Date: May 16, 2008
By: Bria Scudder
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - On the last day of the state's legislative session Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis. presided over the Senate floor for what likely will be the last time as she reached her term limit as senator. 

Although legislators will return for a short veto session in September to consider bills vetoed by the governor, Friday will have been the last regular legislative day for 25 legislators who have reached the eight-year limit on service in a chamber.

In the Senate, the four term-limited members each say that Missouri needs to eliminate or change term limitations. 

Sen. John Loudon, R- St. Louis County, said that term limits "diminishes the power that individuals have to influence their government".

Sen. Harry Kennedy, D-St. Louis, said that because of term limits senators can no longer "make it a career" because of the eight year limit.

Coleman said that keeping more learned legislators around would reduce the "many screw-ups that go on around here."

She said that the voters should decide when a term should end. "It takes away the voter's natural opportunity to initiate its own term limits," Coleman said. 

"It's created some dynamics I don't think we expected," said Sen. Mike Gibbons, R- St. Louis County and president pro tem of the Senate..

"People are always looking for jobs," he said. He also said that term limits have shifted power from the legislature to the governor. He suggested that a 12 year limit would make a more natural turnover.

Gibbons said that he would not run for another term regardless of term limits. "I feel like it's time to move on," said Gibbons, who is seeking the GOP nomination for attorney general.

One of 15 states that implement term limits, Missouri is losing four senators and 21 representatives at the end of this session. 

Coleman said that she will miss serving her district. "I have felt most complete when helping others," she said. Although she spoke highly of her experience in the capitol, she said that she will not miss the politics.

Coleman said that one of the funniest moments that she has experienced was when Sen. Callahan was engaging in a floor debate and the senator that he was inquiring walked off of the floor and Callahan proceeded to debate with the empty chair.

"I have felt most complete when helping others. I think that's what I'll miss most," Coleman said.

Kennedy said that he will miss his colleagues. He said one of his most memorable moments was when he got to introduce his family on the Senate floor.

During their years in as party leaders in the Senate, Gibbons and Coleman had formed a near partnership to reduce party tensions and rhetoric in the Senate.

""We've always had a good relationship," said Gibbons.

Gibbons said that obstruction for the sake of obstruction is unacceptable. "When it degenerates in partisan bickering that what people hate," he said.

As Missouri's first black woman party leader, Coleman said that she doesn't see another woman taking that position any time soon, but she did express optimism that that she will not be the last. "I believe that eventually the legislature will become more gender blind, just as it has become more color blind," she said.

As for what's next, although Coleman say what she plans to do after her last term is over, she said that she has high expectations. "I'll make a decision to when necessary," she said. "However I expect the best to happen and it always does."

As the only candidate who filed for the Republican nomination for attorney general, Gibbons' has his political agenda set at least until November.  "I'm excited about the campaign," he said

Loudon said that through his experience, he has learned that a legislator should not "get married" to their bill.

He said it is more important to to make sure that the language passes, even it it means attaching it someone else's bill. "Share the credit," he said.

Loudon's words of wisdom to his successor are "Never Burn a Bridge," he said. He added that the person you contend with today, you may need tomorrow.

But some legislators say those kind of long-term relationships among legislators have become less important because of the higher turnover in a term-limited legislature.