Four reforms of Missouri’s ethics laws are on their way to the full state House for discussion.
A committee today passed bills that would change when financial disclosures and lobbyist-paid trips must be reported, bar legislators from becoming lobbyists for one full legislative session after leaving office, and would bar elected officials or lawmakers from being paid political consultants. Those bills will be considered by the full House on Wednesday, and the committee will consider more ethics reform bills next week.
Representative Gina Mitten (D-St. Louis) says those four bills don’t go far enough to address their respective issues.
“I think that we are making some good strides and I think that is still important even though they are baby, baby, baby steps,” said Mitten.
Committee chairman Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) defends the effort led by his Republican party to pass ethics reform.
“I understand that Representative Mitten wants to talk about other issues and has problems with these certain bills,” said Barnes, but he added, “It is January 11. No bill has ever been voted out of committee on ethics this early.”
One of those bills would bar lawmakers, state elected officials. and those appointed to positions that require senate confirmation from becoming lobbyists for one full legislative session after leaving office. St. Louis Democrat Gina Mitten criticizes that the bill would only apply to officials who win election or re-election.
“You’re the one that used words like, ‘We’re very serious about this,” Mitten told sponsor Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia). “I would say that if you’re really serious about it, it should apply to everybody.”
Rowden says applying the bill to current elected officials would retroactively apply to them standards different from those in place when they ran for office, and under the Constitution laws cannot apply retroactively.
“That is middle of the road, compromise legislation language that I believe still functionally does what we want it to do,” said Rowden of his bill. “You probably sacrifice maybe wanting to go further, personally wanting to do some more things, because ultimately you have to pass something that stands up to muster and can move into law and be functional going forward.”
Mitten wants to see that bill amended to prevent lawmakers and elected officials from becoming lobbyists for a full year after the date they leave office, and criticized Rowden for characterizing his prohibition as being for “one-year” when it says it is “until one full regular session of the general assembly has both convened and adjourned.”
Mitten also wants a tougher penalty in that bill for anyone who leaves office without fulfilling the term he or she was elected to, than for those who serve out a term.
“There needs to be some absolutely punitive measures for someone that resigns their office early in order to become a lobbyist,” said Mitten. “As far as I’m concerned that is unconscionable to your constituents to leave them unrepresented for months and in some cases years.”
A state Senate committee will consider an ethics reform package tomorrow.