Growing number of Missouri lawmakers also business owners

Growing number of Missouri lawmakers also business owners
Posted at 4:53 PM, May 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-14 17:53:13-04

A growing number of Missouri legislators have been listing work with small businesses and management as their occupation over the last 30 years.

More business owners and employees were in this year's Legislature than any other occupation, including attorneys and teachers, the Columbia Missourian reported.

According to lawmakers' self-reported outside job listings from this year, 36 legislators are involved in small business. The Missouri Legislative Library shows that there were only 18 in 1987.

University of Missouri in Columbia political science professor Peverill Squire, who has studied the Missouri Legislature for more than three decades, attributed the shift in occupation to the increase in Republican lawmakers.

"Small-business people tend to lean towards the Republicans," Squire said. "And so, as Republicans have become more successful in recruiting candidates, small-business people are one of the pools of potential candidates that they seek."

He also said the flexibility of being a small-business owner allows one to take five months off for a legislative session that only pays less than $36,000 per year.

Democratic Rep. Mary Nichols said lawmakers should represent a variety of occupations because their outside jobs influence their legislative work.

"Everybody has a unique perspective about a particular issue because it is good to have somebody in that background," Republican Rep. Chuck Basye said. "You know, you might not agree with them, but you can get their perspective because they have been through a lot of those particular issues."

Squire said lawmakers' occupations affect what bills they support and propose.

"Politicians tend to be focused on agendas that involve some portion of their life experiences," he said. "And so it's not surprising that lawyers may have a greater interest in legal questions and criminal procedure and that sort of thing, or educators in education policy."