How House Republicans propose reforming ethics practices for the state’s elected officials has been laid out in a series of bills.
Representative Caleb Rowden said he’s talked with leadership in his chamber and in the Senate about the priorities in ethics reform. He has filed one bill with several provisions in it, HB 188.
One would try to jam what is known in the Capitol as the “revolving door.”
“We plan to implement a one-year cooling off period for legislators before they can become lobbyists, providing time to negate any potential undue influence carried over from one side to the other,” said Rowden.
The bill will also seek to make statewide offices more accountable. Ads including public officials’ images or voices must disclose whether taxpayer dollars have been used to buy air time.
“We have seen a significant increase in statewide officials using their capacity to boost their profile for a potential reelection campaign,” said Rowden. “While we certainly do not want to inhibit the ability of these individuals to do their jobs well, we do believe it’s important for there to be accountability and transparency in how these spots are being financed.”
The bill also includes language dealing with so-called “dark money;” donations made through social welfare groups so that the original donor of the money is not identified. It would require more reporting by organizations that spend more than a quarter of their budgets on political activity.
“The idea is to separate those 501(c)(4)s that are formed specifically to give large amounts of money to candidates or initiatives … to separate them from, for instances, the American Cancer Society, or someone like that, who has certain political interests but certainly wouldn’t be perceived as someone who is trying to abuse the system.”
HB 188 would also bar lawmakers from accepting lobbyist gifts; something Rowden said he has already committed to doing.
Rowden and Jefferson City representative Jay Barnes have also filed a series of bills dealing with ethics issues individually.
Outside of legislation, Rowden said the House also plans to make changes related to ethics when it votes on the rules by which it will operate for the next two years. Those will include the elimination of “issue development committees,” and requiring additional approval for committees to have dinners outside of the Capitol.