The state Senate starts work on improving ethics in state government and in political campaigns. But a voice of pessimism has been heard in the early discussions saying informed voters are the best judges of legislative and campaign ethics.

The plan from Senator Charlie Shields of St. Joseph focuses on making candidates and lawmakers more accountable for the money they get for campaigns. It redefines relations with lobbyists and keeps legislators from acting as political consultants for one another.

Shields admits government ethics is an ongoing issue. But he can’t agree with Caulfield senator Chuck Purgason that the whole thing is an exercise in futility. “People should, as they vote, understand where the money comes from. Under our current system, that’s extremely difficult,” Shields says.

His bill requires more prompt reporting of donations to state lawmakers during legislative sessions and bans transfers of money through a labyrinth of committees to hide its origins.

Shields says he’s not pretending his bill is the ultimate solution. But he says it’s a necessary change after a year in which four lawmakers have been charged with crimes and/or sent to prison.

AUDIO: Purgason and Shields 6 min