Another proposed constitution amendment, this one affecting legislators, comes from Sen. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall. He wants to further restrict the time that legislators can serve.
The state constitution already limits legislators to four consecutive terms in the same chamber. But it is silent on whether legislators can then move to the other chamber. It is also silent on how long legislators can serve overall.
The Van Gerpen amendment reflects the dislike among many conservatives for career politicians. He would add a restriction to the constitution allowing a legislator to serve no more than 16 consecutive years.
Two legislators from his district went well beyond 16 years.
Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland, served 22 years in a row, bouncing between the House and the Senate, until Van Gerpen beat him in November.
Jim Putnam, R-Armour, served 26 years in a row, alternating between the House and Senate, switching to the opposite side each time Kloucek changed. Putnam lost in the district’s House Republican primary last June.
Two of the 10 co-sponsors of the Van Gerpen amendment are the other two legislators from his district, Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, and Rep. Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland. Nelson and Schoenfish finished ahead of Putnam in that Republican primary.
The Van Gerpen amendment, SJR 4, has been assigned to the Senate State Affairs Committee.
His proposal to restrict legislators to 16 consecutive years would still allow lawmakers to move in and out and back in to the Legislature. Van Gerpen is an example. He is serving his ninth year, but those have been spread across four different periods, starting in 1997.
Both the Brown amendment and the Van Gerpen amendment will stir serious debates in the weeks ahead.