One of the original sponsors of a 2010 ethics reform law wants to move quickly to get it back into law, now that the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional. The Court’s decision was not based on the content of the law, but because it was passed as part of an unrelated bill. 

Representative Jason Kander

Representative Jason Kander (D-Kansas City) has filed a bill that includes the 2010 language plus two more bills that he had already filed with additional ethics provisions. He says his new bill could be on the Governor’s desk in two weeks if the Republican majority decides to make it a priority. He adds, “I”m also realistic, and I know that I filed (an ethics bill) before this legislative session even started and so far, not only has that bill not received a hearing, I’ve not been able to get the Republican leadership to actually send that bill to a committee.”

See Representative Kander’s new legislation, HB 1756.

Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka) says with the Court’s decision having been announced on Tuesday, his caucus has not yet discussed the issue. “We’re already a third of the way through the legislative session. I think any time that we delve in the ethics sections we encounter a lot of different thoughts about where we should go in that area and so I really don’t have a feel yet as to the pulse of my caucus as to what they’d like to do.”

Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones

The 2010 bill made candidates for the legislature and statewide office publicly report contributions of more than $500 or more, while the legislature is in session. It also banned certain committee-to-committee money transfers, so that the public could more easily track the source of contributions. It also gave the Ethics Commission the power to begin investigations by unanimous votes rather than having to receive a complaint about violations from an elected official, candidate or lobbyist.

Kander says for that law to be thrown out now, during a major campaign season, is frustrating. “We have one of the most open and no rules systems in the country … probably the worst … and this only takes us a step back and makes it even worse.” He says without the 2010 law in place, “We’re going to have campaigns that operate completely in the shadows, we’re the only state in the country that has no limits on lobbyist gifts … literally dinners and tickets and everything else that lobbyists can give to lawmakers … we have no limits on that and we have no limits on campaign contributions. We’re the only state in the country with that combination.”
The bills Kander had already filed this year would ban lawmakers accepting gifts from lobbyists or becoming lobbyists after leaving the legislature, and would prevent lawmakers from trading with inside information gained by being a lawmaker.
See Representative Kander’s other ethics bills, HB 1080 and HB 1121.
Kander’s legislation would also restore campaign contribution limits, which Jones says his caucus does not support. “We feel that with the current set of laws in this country, especially on the federal level … the courts are moving towards recognizing that is protected as free speech. I don’t think Missouri should be moving in the opposite direction.”