JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri voters have a chance to decide whether more state elected officials should have term limits.
There are two amendment questions on all Missouri ballots in the upcoming election, Amendment 3 and Amendment 1. Amendment 1 asks voters if some state elected officials should be restricted to two four-year terms.
Currently in Missouri, the governor, treasurer and members of the general assembly are constricted to no more than eight years in those seats.
“Right now, in Missouri, we have inconsistencies on the way that term limits are applied to certain elected officials,” said State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, who sponsored the bill in 2019. “If pass, it would apply term limits consistently across the board to all the other state-wide officials that are currently exempted.
Amendment 1 on the ballot reads:
“Do you want to amend the Missouri Constitution to extend the two-term restriction that currently applied to the Governor, Treasurer to the Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Auditor and the Attorney General?”
Missouri voters approved governor term limits in 1965, then treasurer in 1970 and general assembly restrictions in 1992.
“It’s important to keep people who are in elected office accountable to the public, and I think it’s important that people don’t become entrenched career politicians,” Luetkemeyer said.
Luetkemeyer said term limits generally have bipartisan support, but not everyone thinks it’s a good idea, like Republican State Sen. Ed Emery from southwestern Missouri.
“The offices that the term limits would now be expanded to are significantly different from the offices that we currently have term-limited,” Emery said. “In my view, the offices that we are extending the term limits to have a significant value on how long that person has been there.”
Emery said these certain elected officials don’t have the power to sign, write or veto law.
“The offices that this would be expanded to are of a different nature,” Emery said. “They are offices that are more lined with expertise and experience.”
Emery isn’t completely opposed to term limits. He said he believes they do both good and harm.
“What it does is take power away from the voters,” Emery said. “It says there are certain people that the government will no longer allow you to vote for even if you wanted to vote for them.”
He said that term limits also hold politicians accountable, but the elected officials in the ballot question serve a government function.
“When you come into these offices, you know you’re not only going to be there temporarily and your thoughts are not totally focused on government, they are focused on things beyond the government which I think makes you a better public servant,” Emery said. “Voters benefit more from leaving those experiences in those offices than they benefit from instancing they can’t stay too long.”
Luetkemeyer said if voters pass Amendment 1 on Tuesday, it will go into effect at the beginning of the new year. This mean if someone is re-elected Tuesday, like Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, the two-term restriction starts after their reelection, meaning his previous term doesn’t count.