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This is the last week of the legislative session in Missouri and we're bringing you the perspectives of two senior House members who are ending their legislative careers because of term limits. On Wednesday, you heard from a Republican. Today, KSMU's Missy Shelton talks with Democratic Representative Barbara Fraser of St Louis County.
Shelton: You're leaving the House because you're term limited. If you could stay on, would you choose to do that?
Fraser: I believe if I were not term limited, I would run for at least one more term. This is a job that you only learn more at each additional year. I've become a far better legislator than I was the first two years. There's so many political and strategic aspects of this job that I find to be incredibly interesting and a lot of fun as well.
Shelton: Just as you have seen the power shift from democrats to republicans, you've seen a large number of very seasoned legislators at the beginning of your stint in the House leave because of term limits. Have you seen a loss of institutional knowledge?
Fraser: Absolutely. Just as I have learned strategies and methods of getting legislation passed in the last few years here, we've lost that availability of information and understanding of pieces of legislation in the whole system. I believe the absence of Senator Wayne Goode and the pending absence of Patrick Dougherty, both of them long-term legislators over 20 years, will be and is a great loss in our state. Because of term limits though there's a real movement to learn quickly and act quickly. I believe on the other hand that those legislators who worked hard at it, learned, got up to date, talked to people so that I think there is a much more dedicated legislature as a result of term limits. Or at least those of us who are dedicated have to work very hard at our jobs and I think we're very focused on them.
Shelton: Are there other positives to term limits besides perhaps encouraging people to be more dedicated?
Fraser: We trust our electorate to utilize term limits in the best way possible which is to elect or to not elect the people they feel are representing them well. I will say however that when I was a freshman legislator, there was one senator who kept stopping any legislation that I had. I really was not unhappy for that senator to leave. I was glad he was term limited out. In any case, it was likely he would've retired on his own steam at the same time in which he did and furthermore, his electorate might have been wise to some of the issues he was stopping from being enacted into law and might have worked against him.
Shelton: How much of what you do in terms of being an effective legislator has to do with relationships that you build over the course of a long tenure in here?
Fraser: I think that's the most important point about term limits and the disadvantage of term limits and the whole point of successful legislators and legislation that passes is building collegiate relationships over time. On my education appropriations committee, I feel a very special connection to both democrats and republicans who were all after supporting funding for secondary and elementary education and I would go to any one of the members of that committee to work on a bill regarding education because I know how dedicated they are. That has been built over two, three, four years of being on the committee together.
Sheltom: In summation, you look back on your legislative career, do you feel like you've made a difference?
Fraser: Yes, I have. I've advocated very strongly for public school education, for children's healthcare, laws protecting women and people from domestic violence. I'm glad I was here. It has been a true honor and a wonderful privilege to represent the people of the 83rd district. I'm humbled by that opportunity.
Shelton: Thank you.
Fraser: Thank you.
Shelton: I've been speaking with Democratic Representative Barbara Fraser of St Louis County about term limits and her final term in the legislature. This interview and my conversation with Republican Representative Mark Wright of Springfield are online at KSMU.org