For the 2013 session, we see again the effect that the limits of four consecutive terms in the same chamber have on our Legislature.
Term limits received the voters’ approval in the 1992 election. Since then, the constitutional restriction has changed the tone of the Legislature’s leadership.
The old ways, of biding time and building respect while waiting a turn, are gone.
Now the path to power is fast. Essentially a legislator has just six years to make a definitive mark or be left to the side.
Not all lawmakers wanting a title and the additional authority that comes with it, whether House speaker, Senate president pro tem, or a committee chairmanship.
But for the many that do want that power, they must get on the ladder right away and keep moving up.
This is especially true among Republicans, because there have been so many more of them in the Legislature during the past 20 years.
Take the example of the two legislators who, during the past term, were the chairmen of the appropriations committees. When they were handed the committee gavels, they had two years of experience apiece.
This term, they are in new roles of even greater influence.
Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, is the Senate president pro tem. That means he is the chamber’s No. 2 presiding officer, running the Senate’s floor sessions when the lieutenant governor doesn’t.
In his role Brown makes the committee assignments. At age 38, he is the body’s head administrator.
He does bring more experience than his predecessor, Sen. Bob Gray, R-Pierre.
Gray was starting just his second term when he was selected by the other Senate Republicans to be president pro tem at age 36.
Gray served in that role for the past three terms and now is retiring because of term limits.
Before Gray was Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown. Schoenbeck had just two terms under his belt — one in the House and one in the Senate — when he was selected president pro tem for the 2005-2006 sessions.
Arne Brown, R-Brookings, had four terms of legislative experience when he was named president pro tem in 2001 and again in 2003.
Before Brown came one of the Senate’s legends, Harold Halverson, R-Milbank. Halverson served a total of four terms as president pro tem, in the 1991-92 sessions and the 1995-2000 sessions.
Halverson was starting his tenth term when he was chosen for the first time.
In between Halverson’s times came Lars Herseth, D-Houghton. That was in the 1993-94 term, when Democrats held a majority of Senate seats for the first time in decades.
Herseth too came bearing great experience. He had been House Democratic leader for eight years and was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1986 (and narrowly lost). He was starting his ninth term in the Legislature when chosen Senate president pro tem.