A big sticking point in the debate over ethics legislation at the Capitol is whether to include limits on campaign contributions. While the Senate might be resistant, House leaders says they might accept them on an ethics bill.
House Speaker Ron Richard (R-Joplin) says everything is on the table with ethics reform. Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt (R-Blue Springs) says that though ethics during the legislative session and donation limits during campaigns might seem like two separate issues, they often mesh.
“Here’s the reality to it. You have campaign finance laws and if you violate campaign finance laws, then it gets into ethics-type issues,” Pratt says. “So, I mean, that’s where it meshes. The campaign finance laws dictate how we run campaigns and how you raise money. Certainly, there will be a discussion.”
In very broad terms, Republicans have sponsored bills that target conduct during legislative sessions. Democrats want to restore campaign contribution limits. A special House committee appointed by the Speaker is reviewing the various pieces of legislation filed this year. It has been charged with sending one, comprehensive bill to the House floor for debate.
House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, sponsors one of the ethics bills the committee is considering. Tilley says he’s keeping the overall goal in mind.
“I want to see something that’s all encompassing, that structurally changes the way things are operated here,” Tilley says.
Tilley doesn’t care much for campaign contribution limits. He prefers the system created when Republicans lifted the limits and added more reporting requirements. But he says that if campaign contribution limits are added to ethics legislation in the House, he won’t move to kill the bill.
“I believe that ethics reform is so important that if we do get a campaign cap on it, I’m going to continue the bill moving down the process,” Tilley says. “I’m not going to lay the bill over. I’m going to send it to the Senate and we’ll see what happens. But I think this year we have a unique opportunity to accomplish something.”
Tilley says he would like to get an ethics proposal to the House floor for debate before legislators leave on spring break, March 4th, but he says that might be pushing it a bit.