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Mo. Republicans Blame Governor for Lack of Ethics Legislation

Mary McGuire, KMOX Capitol Bureau
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) - Top Republican leaders in Missouri cite an absence of communication with the governor’s office as a factor in a lack of new ethics legislation.

“I spoke with the governor the first day of legislative session and I haven’t heard from him since,” says Sen. President Pro-Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter.

“I would be more than happy to sit down with the Governor to discuss ethics legislation, but he has not contacted me personally,” said Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones, R-St. Louis.

Gov. Jay Nixon pled for ethics legislation reform after the Supreme Court’s ruling to dismiss a 2010 ethics law package based on procedural grounds.

Every Republican legislator voted in favor of the ethics bill in 2010. The House approved it 153-5; the Senate 32-1.

The 2010 ethics law contained legislation that would have:

  • Prohibited an ex-legislator from becoming a lobbyist within two years of leaving office.
  • Placed a $20,000 cap on individual campaign contributions for statewide and local officials.
  • Redefined campaign finance committees.

The Supreme Court threw out the 2010 bill because it coupled the ethics legislation with an unrelated bill regarding how elected officials contract purchasing and printing services. It is unconstitutional to tack legislation unrelated to the direct subject of bills in the state of Missouri.

“The ruling leaves a significant hole in Missouri’s ethics laws, and the General Assembly must move quickly to get a strong ethics bill on my desk,” said Nixon on Feb. 17.

The Senate has until March 1 to file any new legislation. Mayer said passing the last ethics bill was a lengthy process.

“I think the last one took some time and quite a bit of work and here it is almost March so it’ll be difficult to get that done in this session,” said Mayer.

Mayer also said that more important pieces of legislature will take precedence over ethics bills, which aren’t a “priority.”

“People are concerned about jobs, not about ethics reform,” said Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Clay.

Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, dismissed Mayer’s argument that there is not enough time in the schedule.

“I personally think that when you have corruption in government, it affects jobs policy, because you can’t have a good jobs policy, if you don’t have good government,” said Kander, who is running for Secretary of State in 2012.

Earlier this month, Kander filed a bill that would reinstate all ethics legislation struck down by the Supreme Court.

The bill would also requires contributions of more than $500 to be reported almost immediately and bans lawmakers from accepting any gifts from lobbyists.

“Ethics reform is good for the people of the state. It might be bad for politicians, but that is not a very good reason not to do it,” said Kander.

Links:  http://www.senate.mo.gov/10info/BTS_Web/Bill.aspx?SessionType=R&BillID=3209157   http://house.mo.gov/BillSummaryPrn.aspx?bill=HB1756&year=2012&code=R

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