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Lobbyist Money Help  

Committee hears testimony on a bill proposed to lower age requirements for Missouri legislators

February 14, 2005
By: Jeana Bruce
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -Turning 21 in Missouri may mean more than throwing out the fake id and having a legal beer.

The Financial, Governmental Organizations and Elections committee heard testimony Monday concerning a bill proposed by Sen. Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis City), that would change the age requirements for members of the General Assembly.

Currently, the age requirement for representatives is 24 and a senator must be 30. If amended, the requirements would be 21 and 25, respectively. The bill would require a change to the Missouri Constitution.

"Right now 43 states have a minimum age requirement of 21 years or less to serve in their lower chamber and 25 years or less to serve in their upper chamber," Coleman said.

Proving that a young candidate can be popular, Coleman cited an example of an 18-year-old state representative in Ohio that was reelected in 2002.

Coleman pointed out that some statewide office do not currently hold age requirements.

"Our former Secretary of State, Matt Blunt, was elected to his office before he was old enough to have served as senator," "Nobody in this state is better than we senators," Coleman said.

Coleman said that with the implementation of term limits, the pool of acceptable candidates for office is growing smaller.

"We need to open it up for those that are younger to come into this body," she said.

Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) disagreed when Coleman suggested that a citizen old enough to go to war deserves the chance to run for office.

Nodler said that the characteristics a soldier must possess are different from those looked for in a legislator.

Megan Block, a registered lobbyist for the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, also testified on behalf of the bill.

According to Block, whose organization lobbies on behalf of the 63,000 students in the UM system, young people are eager to participate.

"I am aware of the unfortunate perception that 18-24 year old voters are not engaged and are really disillusioned. Some college age citizens feel that their voices are not heard," she said.