October 31, 2014

House Democrats and Republicans weigh in on new ethics bill

House Democrats have filed an ethics bill to replace the provisions thrown out by the state Supreme Court, and then some.

House Speaker Steven Tilley and Assistant Minority Floor Leader Tishaura Jones

The bill’s sponsor, Minority Floor Leader Tishaura Jones (D-St. Louis) says the bill is identical to one that passed with bipartisan support out of the 2010 Special Committee on Ethics Reform, which was House BIll 2300. That legislation included the same provisions that were thrown out by the Court, and more.

See the legislation, HB 1939

One additional piece is campaign contribution limits. House Speaker Steven Tilley (R-Perryville)┬ásays he would want to see those removed in Committee. “I’ve always been opposed to campaign contribution limits because it leads to what we used to have before, where people would give to committees and then committees would give to other people and it was hard to track the money. The system we’ve got now … there’s openness, there’s transparency and there’s accountability.”

Tilley says there is time for the bill to make it through the process. “If the Senate can get something through that addresses the things that I think really were good as far as from an ethics standpoint, I don’t see a problem with the House passing it.”

Jones says another provision would prohibit the investment of campaign contributions in anything other than interest-bearing checking or savings accounts. “You shouldn’t be able to make money off of it … These are campaign moneys. They should be used for campaigning, not for returns on investments and making money off of it.”

Tilley recently invested $900,000 from his campaign fund in a community bank, but Jones says that provision is not aimed at any one lawmaker. “There are other candidates who currently have moneys in CDs and money market investments, so we’re trying to make the playing field even.”

Tilley doesn’t believe that provision is directed at him. “I don’t think so, because nobody’s made any allegations that I’ve done anything inappropriately or unethically.”

He says he will treat the bill like any other, by referring it to committee and letting it make its way through the process.