House Republicans have advanced four ethics reform proposal, but Democrats say they were kept out of the debate.
The House is one vote away from sending bills to the Senate that propose changing when financial disclosures and lobbyist-paid trips must be reported, would bar legislators from becoming lobbyists for one full year after their terms expire, and would bar elected officials or lawmakers from being paid political consultants.
Democrats don’t think the bills go far enough and technicalities kept them from offering changes. Assistant Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) thinks that was intentional on the part of Republican majority.
“It was a strategic move, I guess, but it’s unfortunate when we’re talking about ethics and we’re talking about being open and transparent that we take one of those tactics to prevent members from getting their amendments heard,” said McCann Beatty.
Representative Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) wanted to propose tougher reforms, such as keeping lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for three years after leaving office as opposed to one, and applying that restriction to those in the legislature now.
“This body will not get a choice today on whether this bill should apply to us immediately, or if this cooling-off period should be three years,” said Webber. “This is a disappointingly small step.”
Republicans including Caleb Rowden (Columbia), who is running for the same Senate seat as Webber, say the bills must be narrowly tailored to avoid being struck down by courts.
In the case of his bill dealing with when lawmakers can become lobbyists, it was changed on the floor to propose a one-year “cooling-off” period between when a legislator, statewide elected official, or appointed official’s term ends and when they can register as a lobbyist. It would apply to all such officials who are elected or appointed after January 1, 2016.
Rowden and Republicans say extending that to three years or making it apply to current office holders could make it more likely to be challenged in court by going to far in limiting the ability of a business to hire a private citizen.
“This is not a perfect bill, this is not a silver bullet, but what it is, is a step in the right direction to tell our constituents that we have heard their voices,” said Rowden.
The House will likely vote to send those to the Senate today.