An Independent chooses a political party and a veteran lawmaker decides to retire. The make-up of the Missouri House has already changed with the closing of candidate filing.The House started the year with 86 Democrats, 76 Republicans and one Independent. Representative Denny Merideth of Caruthersville was the General Assembly’s only Independent, but has now declared as a Democrat. Elected in 1997, Merideth says he now understands legislators within a party have a say in how legislation is formed. Merideth says his independence has limited his effectiveness.Representative Mike Schilling of Springfield has decided to quit the legislature and spend more time with his 14-year-old son. He withdrew his name on the last day of filing once he felt confident Democrats could keep his seat. He first won election in 1992. Schilling leaves his biggest issue undone. He has long championed repeal of the death penalty.