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Ward files bills on term limits, food pantries, assaults

State Rep. Dan Ward, D-Bonne Terre, is preparing for the upcoming legislative session.

On Monday, Ward prefiled three bills for the 2004 legislative session, which begins in January and adjourns in May. Monday was the first day legislators could prefile.

The first is a proposed House Joint Resolution that would extend term limits for state representatives and senators. Under the proposal, the number of years an individual could serve would increase from eight to 12 years per chamber — a total of 24 years in the Legislature.

Ward said term limits are a bad idea. He said that’s been proven in California already.

Ward said term limits are creating more power for the bureaucrats. Ward said the bureaucrats tend to want to lead inexperienced legislators in the direction they want them to go. He said that takes away the power of the Legislature.

He said this is the third time he has filed such a resolution. He said he didn’t file one last year because he wanted see what would happen with the term limits taking effect and many new legislators going into office.

Approved by Missouri voters in 1992, an amendment to the state’s constitution limits members of both the House and Senate, elected after 1992, to eight years in each chamber and 16 years in total legislative service.

The main effect of the term limits amendment occurred during the 2002 election when 73 House members and 12 Senate members were not eligible to run for re-election. According the Missouri House of Representatives Web site, in 2010, 90 members will be ineligible to run for re-election in the House, assuming members are re-elected each term.

Ward, like some other state representatives with six years in, has decided to seek a seat on the Senate before he is term limited out of the House. Ward would reach his term limit in the House in 2006.

He based his decision to run on the fact that he would be out of public service for two years if he did not run in 2004, since the seat is not open for election again until 2008. Members of the House are elected to two-year terms while members of the Senate have four-year terms.

An extension of term limits, like any change in the state constitution, would have to be voted on by the people.

Ward said he remains optimistic, even though it has yet to make it to the ballot.

“We’ll see where it goes,” he said.

Ward is also proposing a bill which would make attempting to kill or cause serious physical injury to corrections personnel a class A felony. The assault charge is currently a class B felony, which carries a lighter sentence.

He is also proposing legislation for food pantries. The bill would permit the Family Support Division, which is the agency responsible for public assistance, to provide financial assistance to certain not-for-profit food pantries in the state.

State Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, has not yet filed a piece of legislation for the 2004 legislative session. He said he was not going to file on the first day just for the pizzazz of filing. But he said he is finalizing a couple bills he plans to propose.

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