The governor wants it , lawmakers in the House and Senate want it, Republicans and Democrats want it, but ethics reform could take a lot of forms in the 2016 session.
Two issues seem to have the most support, at least among Republican leadership: a ban or cap on gifts to lawmakers from lobbyists, and a closing of the so-called “revolving door” – lawmakers becoming lobbyists once they’re out of office, many times in fields related to what they dealt with while in the legislature.
Both issues are found in bills filed by Representative Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) and Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis).
“Too many times I think legislators spend the final months of their time in the legislature trying to arrange jobs as lobbyists,” Onder told Missourinet. “My bill would initiate a two-year cooling off period between service in the legislature and serving as a lobbyist.”
Rowden’s bill proposes a cooling-off period of at least one complete, regular legislative session.
Majority Republicans generally don’t support campaign finance reform. Rowden says it would be unlikely to pass, and that’s why he didn’t file it.
“When we’re introducing proposals here at the beginning I think you do your best to find the things that have broad support and have the opportunity to move forward,” said Rowden. “There are other pieces of ethics reform that I certainly, personally, would be in favor of, but at the end of the day, talking with colleagues and folks on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the building, you come to the conclusion that these are the things that we think we can get across the finish line this year.”
One disagreement in the capitol is whether individual reforms should be dealt with separately or whether they should be lumped together in one or more packages.
Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) has long advocated for the individual approach.
“This isn’t unique to bills relating to ethics. You name the subject,” said Barnes. “The larger the bill gets the more difficult it becomes to pass because every time you add a new measure on to the bill you create a new opponent.”
Onder said while there is no reason ethics language couldn’t be passed in a series of individual bills, his is a larger grouping.
“I think a package of three or four or five ethics reforms can all fit into the same package, and I would be in favor of that approach,” said Onder.
Rowden and others in the House have filed bills addressing one reform, but he intends to file a package as well.
Given the broad support for ethics reform, all three Republicans told Missourinet it seems likely that at least one bill will reach Governor Jay Nixon’s (D) desk by the end of the session.
Barnes predicted it won’t take long, at least for the revolving door and lobbyist gift language, to reach the desk of Governor Jay Nixon (D).
“I would bet we’re going to put it on the calendar early and those two provisions are going to be passed out of the House in separate bills in January or early February,” said Barnes.
Onder said he would be “deeply disappointed” if no ethics legislation is passed.
“It’s clearly something the public expects out of us … the mood, the climate in the state and in the country are calling out for reform at all levels of government,” said Onder. “We’re long overdue.”
Onder’s legislation is SB 643.