Fitzwater proposes amendment to re-shape House, Senate

Fitzwater proposes amendment to re-shape House, Senate

March 6th, 2019 by Bob Watson in Local News

In this Sept. 11, 2018 photo, Rep. Travis Fitzwater introduces a bill during a meeting of the Workforce Development Committee of Missouri House of Representatives.

Photo by Tim Bommel

State Rep. Travis Fitzwater thinks Missouri's Legislature is too big and wants voters to change the Constitution and re-size it.

After studying other states' legislative compositions, Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, told the House General Laws Committee Monday afternoon: "It seemed like we were just unusually large."

Missouri has 163 representatives and 34 senators.

At 197 total lawmakers, Fitzwater said, "We are the seventh-largest Legislature in the country.

"Population-wise, we're not anywhere close to the seventh-largest population."

His proposed amendment would reduce the House from 163 members to 120 and raise the Senate "about 20 percent" to 40 members.

He said: "I think our Senate is unnecessarily small."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures' website, New Hampshire has the largest legislature with 424 members.

Pennsylvania is second with 253, followed by Georgia, 236; New York, 213; Minnesota, 201; and Massachusetts, 200; before getting to Missouri's 197.

Compared with the eight states surrounding Missouri, Fitzwater said, "We are, by far, the largest Legislature. Even Illinois has 20 fewer (lawmakers) than we do."

According to the NCSL listing, the surrounding states are Arkansas, 135; Illinois, 177; Iowa, 150; Kansas, 185; Kentucky, 138; Nebraska, 49; Oklahoma, 149; and Tennessee, 132.

His proposal, Fitzwater said, "would put us more on par with other states."

State Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Kansas City, asked Fitzwater why he didn't leave the Senate at 34 members, with three representatives for each Senate district — which would be only 102 representatives.

"(That's) a smaller number than 120," Fitzwater answered, "(and) it's already going to be hard for a number of members to, basically, vote themselves out of a job" by sending the proposal to a statewide vote.

Under his proposal, Fitzwater testified, "Three House members would be contained within a Senate district. .

"I just think (that) having a bigger relationship with one senator makes the House member, maybe, a little more effective."

"Obviously, there would be a cost saving in reducing 43 state reps," he said, while there would be an increased cost to adding six more senators, including their office space, office staff and seats in the Senate's chamber.

"But I think it would reduce in the order of a million-and-a-half (to) $3 million a year in costs to the state, by reducing the Legislature by this amount."

No one testified for or against Fitzwater's proposal.

The committee must vote to recommend the full House debate the measure before it can move on.