Missouri voters are deciding whether to limit all statewide office holders to two four-year terms.
Currently, the governor and state treasurer are the only elected statewide officials restricted to two consecutive terms. Constitutional Amendment 1 on the general election ballot would require the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state auditor to leave office after eight years.
Supporters say expanding term limits to all statewide offices would bring consistency across the offices, and would prevent career politicians. Opponents argue the amendment would solve a problem that doesn’t exist, and would deprive statewide offices of experienced administrators, radio station KCUR reported.
State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, who sponsored the amendment, said every statewide elected official would be treated the same if the amendment passes.
But fellow Republican Sen. Ed Emery, from Lamar, said the limits would reduce the value of the office.
“There are some offices that are very well run, and that the voters would really prefer to keep someone in there with the experience,” said Emery, who could not seek reelection to the Senate because of term limits. “When you term limit them, you’re imposing potentially an inexperienced person into a place where someone is doing an excellent job.”
Previous term limit proposals have passed overwhelmingly in Missouri. In 1965, more than 72 percent of Missourians approved term limits for the governor, and term limits for state legislators passed by an even greater margin in 1992.
Robynn Kuhlmann, a political scientist at the University of Central Missouri, said Missourians were generally concerned about how career politicians can be influenced by lobbyists. But she said research had shown that term limits might make the connection between politicians and lobbyists stronger.
In the legislature, newer lawmakers “aren’t informed as to the legislative process. They lack institutional experience, and some of them may rely more on the information that lobbyists give,” Kuhlmann said.
But Luetkemeyer, who is in his second year in office, said a motivated lawmaker could accomplish many things “without having to be there for 20-30 years.”
The amendment would not affect lawmakers but is aimed at statewide executives who are generally more experienced and don’t write legislation, which would not provide much benefit to the state, Emery said.
“I have a hard time envisioning any specific value other than getting voters to know every eight years they’re going to have to have a new slate of people to vote on,” Emery said.
Kuhlmann said it was already rare for statewide executives to serve more than two terms.
“It seems to me as if this amendment is on the ballot without any prevailing problem associated with it,” Kuhlmann said.
But Luetkemeyer noted that former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, had served as attorney general for 16 years.
“So certainly in very recent history we’ve had somebody serve as attorney general for a very lengthy period of time,” he said.