The proper name of Missouri's state legislature is the General Assembly of the State of Missouri or the General Assembly.  It has two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives.


There are 34 members in the Senate.  One must be 30 years of age, a qualified voter for 3 years and a resident of the district for 1 year to be eligible to run for the Senate. The term of office is 4 years.  There is an 8-year term limit.


There are 163 members in the House of Representatives.  One must be 24 years of age, a qualified voter for 2 years and a resident of the district for 1 year to be eligible to run for the House.  The term of office is 2 years, with an 8-year term limit.


The salary for each chamber is about $32,000 per year with an allowance of $70 per day during sessions and mileage. The per diem is based on 90% of the allowance for federal offices. 


Each session lasts two years and meets from January through May.  The session usually convenes on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January.


The governor or 3/4 of the members of both chambers may call special sessions.  Only those items specified may be discussed in a special session.  It may last no longer than 30 days.  A "Veto Session" is held for ten days in September if the governor has vetoed any bills passed in the regular session.  A 2/3 vote by both chambers is necessary to override a governor's veto.  Only rarely does the legislature override a governor’s veto.


Bills may be prefiled beginning December 1 before the opening of the legislative session.  These bills are automatically introduced and given first reading on the session's opening day.  Senators and Representatives may introduce bills during the regular session.  A bill will be assigned a number, given a first reading, placed on the calendar for a second reading and sent to committee.


The committee schedules a public hearing, discusses the bill and makes a recommendation.





When a bill is reported out of committee with a favorable recommendation, it is placed on the "perfection calendar."  At the appropriate time, the bill is debated on the floor.  Amendments may be proposed.  When all amendments have been considered, a motion to perfect may be passed.  If a majority vote favorably, the bill is considered perfected and is reprinted in its amended form for final passage.


The bill will be put on the calendar for third reading and final passage.  No further amendments may be considered at this point, although members may speak either for or against the bill.  At the conclusion of debate a recorded vote is taken.  A majority is required for the bill to pass (18 in the Senate, 82 in the House).


The passage of a bill is reported to the other chamber. A bill must pass both chambers in exactly the same form before being sent to the governor.  Should differences exist when a bill is passed, a conference committee may be called to iron out these differences.  The chamber which originated the bill usually votes on the conference committee version first.  If it accepts, then the bill is sent to the other chamber for approval.  If that chamber approves, the bill is declared "truly agreed to and finally passed."


Bills truly agreed to and finally passed are signed by the House Speaker and the Senate president or president pro tem and sent to the governor.  The governor has 15 days to act on a bill if it is sent to him during legislative session and 45 days if the legislature has adjourned. If an emergency clause is inserted into the bill, it can become effective immediately after the governor’s signature.  Ordinarily, however, laws become effective 90 days after receiving the governor’s signature.










In 1940, Missouri adopted the Nonpartisan Selection of Judges Court Plan, commonly referred to as the Missouri Court Plan.  Under this plan, a commission selects three candidates for a judicial vacancy  with no regard to political affiliation.  The governor must appoint one of these.  After serving at least one year in office, the judge’s name is placed on the ballot at the next general election.  The voters vote whether or not to retain the judge in office.  If the voters vote “yes,” the judge serves a term of 12 years.  About two-thirds of the states have adopted some version of the Missouri Court Plan.


 Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals judges must have been a citizen for at least 15 years and have been qualified voters of the state 9 years.  They must be 30 years of age.  Except for temporary assignments, Courts of Appeals judges must be residents of the district in which they serve.  Circuit judges must have been United States citizens for ten years, qualified Missouri voters for three years and residents of the circuit they serve for one year.  They also must be 30 years of age.  Associate Circuit judges must be 25 years of age, must be qualified voters and residents of the county where they serve.   All judges must be licensed to practice law in Missouri.


Supreme Court judges and Courts of Appeals judges serve a term of 12 years after their election.  Circuit judges serve terms of six years and are elected directly by the voters in partisan elections.  Associate circuit judges serve four-year terms and are also elected by the voters in partisan elections.  The salary of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is $111,282.  By custom, the justices select which of them will assume the position of Chief Justice.  That person serves as Chief Justice for two years.  Other Justices receive a salary of $108,783.    Justices of the Courts of Appeals receive salaries of $101,591.  Circuit judges receive a salary of $94,115 and Associate Circuit judges receive $82,961.


The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in cases on appeal.  Attorneys orally argue the merits of their cases and answer the judges’ questions.  Before these arguments take place, however, the lawyers submit detailed briefs stating their arguments and the basis for them.  These may include past court decisions, laws and scholarly articles.  The Court in researching, deciding and writing opinions considers the briefs and oral arguments.  The Supreme Court will hear several hundred cases each year.  Researching and writing a single opinion often requires several weeks.  All seven judges hear each case.


The Supreme Court supervises lower courts in the state, oversees the handling of federal funds awarded the courts and handles the transfer of judicial personnel between the courts.  The Court announces rules of practice and procedure guiding cases in Missouri courts.  These rules cover the procedures necessary for the uniform handling of cases, such as times for filing motions and briefs, setting bail bonds and other such details.


The Supreme Court must license all lawyers practicing law in Missouri.  The Court also disciplines lawyers for violations of the legal Rules of Professional Conduct. 



The above materials are essentially quoted from the OFFICIAL MANUAL OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI, 1997-1998, pages 192-205, 971-973.  




Parole and Probation



There are 21 correctional institutions in the state of Missouri.


They house over 30,000 convicted felons.


Altogether there are almost 90,000 people "in the system," which means those in prison as well as those on supervised probation or parole.  There are more than 48,000 on probation and 1200 on parole.  (Spring, 2003)


Obviously there is only so much room for prisoners.  As a new one comes in, one must be released.  The Board of Probation and Parole decides who will be released. When released, a felon is put on parole and supervised until such time as the sentence is completed or the person shows that he/she can re-enter society in a productive role (meaning they are not likely to commit another crime and they can hold a job).


As more people are put on probation or parole, the need for more probation and parole officers increases. If the individual officer has too many people on the "case load" he/she cannot properly supervise each one.  The offenders must report to the officer regularly and prove that they have a job and are working to keep their personal affairs in order.


Protection against crime does not come cheap.  We must pay for keeping offenders in prison or on parole or probation.  The cost for keeping each person in a correctional institution in Missouri is $35.52 per day.  Parole and probation are much cheaper at a cost of $4.14 per day.


Persons between the ages of 17 and 25 commit most crimes in the state of Missouri.


Around 70+ percent of offenders in Missouri were involved with alcohol when they were arrested.  That means that alcohol abuse is responsible for many of the 77,000 people in the Missouri correctional system.  Most of these people would not be offenders in the first place nor would they be likely to repeat their offense if they stayed away from alcohol.  Therefore, treatment for alcohol abuse has a high priority in the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the state of Missouri.


The last two points help explain why Missouri is so concerned about alcohol use and abuse in young people.


The court where the vast majority of all cases begin and end is the State Circuit Court.  The people directly elect the judges for this court.  Therefore, the people elect the judges who make the most decisions about crime. We, the voters, are responsible for the kind of justice we get.




Roles of the Missouri Governor


(Adapted from Clinton Rossiter’s THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY)



Chief of State

     Ceremonial head, highest elected official


Chief Executive

     CEO of state government


Chief Diplomat

     Maintains relationships with federal government and other states



     Head of the state National Guard


Chief Legislator

     Responsible for legislative program, signs, vetoes legislation


Chief of Party

     Highest elected state official of the political party


Voice of the People

Leads and follows public opinion


Manager of Prosperity

Responsible to maintain a prosperous state economy


Protector of the People

Provides assurance and assistance in times of emergency or disaster








The Electoral College was designed by Alexander Hamilton and never has worked exactly as he planned.  It is a system that gives electoral power to states rather than to the people directly.  There may have been justification for his plan at the time it was proposed, but many think it is outdated and should be changed.  Changing the plan calls for a constitutional amendment and that is hard to achieve under the best of circumstances.  Furthermore, those who would initiate a change don't agree on how to change it, so the Electoral College stays as Hamilton designed it and as it was put into the Constitution.


Let's go through the plan using Missouri as the state in the example.  Remember that Missouri has two United States Senators, as do all states, and nine Representatives in the House of Representatives.  The number of Representatives is based on population.


In the summer of presidential election years, usually in June, Missouri Republicans gather for the Republican State Convention.  Missouri Democrats also gather for the Democratic State Convention. Among other things, each convention selects 11 Electors.  People chosen to be Electors are faithful to their political party, have volunteered time and money to their party or have in some other way distinguished themselves to their political party.  Therefore, there are two sets of Electors: a

Republican set of 11 and a Democratic set of 11.


Now comes the hard part.  On Election Day in November, the people vote.  The political party of the presidential candidate that wins the most votes gets ALL of the Electors.  That is how we know (usually) on election night who has won the presidency.  But this is slightly ahead of the story.


On the first Monday after the first Wednesday in December, the Electors of the winning party gather in the state Capitol.  There is a modest ceremony and usually a luncheon in the Rotunda.  Each of the 11 Electors votes on a special ballot for president.  They vote on a separate ballot for vice president. They are representing the voters of the state, so their vote is not secret.  The votes are sent to Washington, D.C. where Congress officially counts them when it meets in January.  Congress officially announces the winner.  The president-elect is inaugurated and takes office at noon on January 20.


The point of Hamilton's plan was that representatives of the people cast the actual votes for president.  Since there was no national media during Hamilton's day, it was logical that the typical voter would not know possible candidates for office.  Remember also that the Constitution did not discuss political parties so voters were not expected to have party labels to rely on.  Hamilton thought the voters would vote for the Electors directly and the Electors would have a month to discuss and figure out whom to choose for president.  Anyway, it never worked quite as Hamilton expected.


Why don't we change it if it has never worked as Hamilton intended?  For one thing, it is not easy to change the Constitution.  For another, there has never been a suggested change that appeals to enough legislators to get a constitutional amendment started.  The present system gives special power to the large states and they have a lot of power in Congress.  It is also easy to say that since the system works we should not change it.  This is the old "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" concept.


A winner must achieve an absolute majority of Electoral votes.  That means whoever gets 270 Electoral votes wins.  Votes from California, Texas, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia and one other state such as Missouri take a candidate over the top.  You see why these states like the present system.


What if no candidate receives the magical 270 votes? The House of Representatives elects the president in that case.  But each state has only one vote, so the Representatives must decide within their own state delegation how to cast their vote.  If they are unable to decide (for example, if there is an equal number of Republicans and Democrats) the state loses its vote.  The Senate chooses the vice president and each Senator gets one vote since there is an equal number of Senators from each state.  Hamilton supported the concept of state’s rights as is evidenced in the plan he devised.





                       The figures below show how few states are necessary to achieve the magic 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.   If a candidate captures the most populous states, those 11 states are all that are needed to win.


Electoral Numbers for Winning the Presidency


California        55

Texas          34

New York          31

Florida        27

Illinois          21

Pennsylvania      21

Ohio              20

Michigan          17

Georgia        15

New Jersey     15

North Carolina    15




Virginia          13

Massachusetts     12

Indiana        11

Missouri          11

Tennessee         11

Washington     11

Arizona        10

Maryland          10

Minnesota         10

Wisconsin         10






By Clinton Rossiter



Constitutional Functions:


Chief of State

     Ceremonial Head


Chief Executive

     CEO of U.S. government


Chief Diplomat

     Formulates and executes foreign policy



     Head of all military with accordant powers


Chief Legislator

Initiates policy, pushes legislation through Congress, signs and vetoes bills, and exercises the pocket veto



Non-Constitutional Functions


Chief of Party

     Highest political party representative


Voice of the People

     Leads and follows public opinion


Manager of Prosperity

     Responsible to achieve a prosperous economy


Protector of the Peace

     Provide domestic tranquility


Leader of the World’s Free Nations

     Undisputed leader of the world