A lawmaker has proposed to expand the number of years legislators can serve, and change the composition of the state’s General Assembly.
Democratic Senator Jason Holsman of Kansas City wants to reduce the number of House members from 163 to 120 and enlarge the Senate from 34 to 40 seats. He contends the adjustment would bring needed symmetry to the legislature.
“So you’d have three House members for every one Senator” said Holsman. Each House member would represent 50,000 people. Each Senator would represent 150,000 people. And all three House seats could be combined to one Senate seat. So when you go to the redistricting process, you can draw the map in a way that would have more balanced partisanship.”
Holsman says current voting districts tend to have a 70-to-30 percent split between Republicans and Democrats, which makes for legislation based on primary rather than general election politics. He says enlarging the Senate would allow for redistricting to reflect a more evenly divided electorate in each political division.
“It would allow those redistricters more flexibility to draw seats in a way that could be more competitive, because right now you have 34 geographic boundary lines. By adding six more geographic boundary lines, it’s going to provide more flexibility to the map drawers to create more balanced districts.”
Missouri is one of 7 states which uses political commissions for legislative redistricting. The state committees of both Republicans and Democrats nominate members to the commission, from which the governor selects an equal number from each party. According to Balletpedia, redistricting was last proposed in Missouri in 2012.
Holsman’s proposal also calls for term limits to be extended from eight to 16 years in both the Missouri House and Senate. Limits in the House would be expanded from four-to-eight two year terms, and in the Senate from two-to-four four year terms. Holsman says the current arrangement artificially removes experience from the legislature.
“Building in more time for those legislators to work on their craft, to be professionals, only improves the product. We talk about legislation as being sausage. Wouldn’t you rather have someone who understands how to make better sausage than someone who’s the first time doing it.”
Holsman says term limits have a place in the legislature because lawmakers, over time, would get stale and entrenched in ideology to the point where progress would be hobbled.
But he notes he and Republican Senator Ryan Silvey, also of Kansas City, are scheduled to be forced out of the legislature at the age of 44 because of term limits. “We’ll be asked to leave…just when we are fully grasping and understanding the craft and art of legislating.”
A Senate committee could vote on Holsman’s proposal as early as Tuesday. It’s not known how much traction the measure will have with fellow lawmakers, particularly in the House where 43 office holders would be eliminated from the legislature.
A separate measure from Senate Republican Will Krauss of Lee’s Summit would impose eight year term limits on four statewide offices which currently have none – attorney general, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and treasurer.