A constitutional provision allows House members to force bills out of committee and onto the House calendar, but that doesn’t mean the bill will go anywhere. Democrats used that route with ethics reform, which now finds itself in a tangled mess with two weeks to go in the session.
House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, dismisses suggestions by Democrats they had to take drastic steps to revive ethics legislation.
“Well, I think the Democrats did what they wanted to do and they put the ethics bill in the graveyard,” Tilley tells the Missourinet.
House Democrats, joined by three Republicans, took action after the House Rules Committee voted 7-4 to send the ethics bill back to the House Special Committee on Government Accountability and Ethics Reform, specially formed by the Speaker to handle ethics legislation this session. The Rules Committee required campaign contribution limits be stripped from HCS SS#2 SCS SB 577 before it would send the bill on to the full House for debate. Democrats gathered the signatures necessary for a discharge petition taking the bill from the Ethics Reform Committee and placing it on the House calendar.
Tilley responded by placing the Senate bill and a companion House Bill (HB 2300) on the informal calendar, designated for legislation considered dead. Tilley says he won’t go to any bill placed on the calendar through a discharge petition, because it subverts the committee process.
House Minority Whip, Rep. Jeff Roorda (D-Barnhart) says Democrats felt compelled to use the tactic after the Rules Committee returned the bill to a committee that had voted unanimously for it. The committee had agreed to add campaign contribution limits to the bill.
Roorda says that is an important point. He speculates that the Rules Committee took its action, because House Republican leaders want to avoid a debate and recorded vote on contribution limits. Roorda says the limits language must be in any bill sent to the House floor for debate, because Republicans will block any effort to amend the bill and reinstate them.
“Not in a million years would they (House Republican leaders) have let us introduce an amendment and have a recorded vote on meaningful campaign limits,” Roorda tells reporters.
Tilley sidesteps our question of whether Republicans would rule such an amendment out of order.
“Am I worried about the limits going back on?” Tilley asks. “Not really because the Senate has made it perfectly clear, in a bi-partisan fashion, that that’s not the direction they want to go.”
Is there a chance for ethics reform with two weeks remaining in the session?
“There is a chance, but it’s on life-support,” Tilley tells us.