Governor Jay Nixon (D) last week signed the first ethics reform proposal to reach him. Now he wants more.
Nixon signed a bill barring elected officials from hiring one another as political consultants. He called it a substantive change, but is calling on the legislature to propose other changes.
“There’s plenty of time left to get additional ethics reform to my desk and I’m counting on the General Assembly to stay focused and finish that job,” said Nixon. “I expect more but more importantly the people of Missouri expect and deserve more, and I’m confident that the legislature can deliver.”
Nixon met Thursday with House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff), who has made ethics reform a top priority this session and said he will keep pushing for more bills in that vein to be passed.
“We’re not going to allow to happen this year what’s happened every year I’ve been here, which has been to allow ‘perfect’ to be the enemy of the ‘good.’ We’re going to put substantive, meaningful ethics reform on his desk and if we’re able to do that, I’ll consider that a win,” said Richardson.”
Nixon said he has continued through the session to meet with Richardson and Senate President Ron Richard, discussing ethics reform and other priorities.
Nixon and Republican leaders share some priorities, but one thing he favors that they oppose is a limit on campaign contributions. Nixon doesn’t go as far as some legislative Democrats, who say there is no meaningful ethics reform without that.
“I don’t look at using the wedge of getting perfection to limit getting progress this year,” said Nixon.
A proposal that appears to have the best chance of being the next one the legislature sends him would keep elected and some appointed officials from immediately becoming lobbyists after leaving their positions. The House had proposed a one-year “cooling off” period after the end of a term for such a transition. The Senate changed that to a wait only until the end of a term. Conferees from the two chambers met in the middle, proposing a wait of six months after the end of a term. The House has voted to adopt that compromise, and if the Senate follows suit the bill will go to Nixon.
He says six months is an improvement.
“It will at least break that cycle … would at least, if passed in the form it’s in, of leading directly into employ. I would like to have a longer period than that if I was choosing,” said Nixon.
Nixon and Republican leaders also favor banning gifts from lobbyists to elected officials. The House passed such a ban, but debate on that proposal has been stalled for weeks in the Senate.
Nixon is optimistic it will reach him.
“I think there’s a real chance to get that this year. I really do, and I think that the House pushing on that early on has made a difference and I think continuing to press on these issues can get action this year,” said Nixon.
Sponsors of the ban in the House and Senate have said they expect a compromise to be a limit rather than a ban, such as a maximum dollar value for gifts in a year.
Four weeks remain in the legislative session.