The ethics reform package passed Friday was not the grand reform package promised by legislators on both sides of the aisle before the current session, but Missouri Democrats, in a news release, say it is "a small step forward":
The House of Representatives today voted 153-5 to grant final passage to ethics reform legislation that strengthens state law in several areas but fails to include important reforms championed by House Democrats, such as reinstating campaign contribution limits and prohibiting lawmakers from doing paid political work.
The final version of SB 844, which the Senate passed 32-1, was stripped of dozens of controversial provisions that House Republicans had loaded it up with, such as requiring Missourians who attempt to contact lawmakers other than their own to register as lobbyists and imposing stringent identification requirements designed to disenfranchise voters.
“Passage of this bill serves as a resounding repudiation of the sham ethics legislation House Republicans attempted to foist upon Missourians under the guise of reform,” said House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence. “Although this bill leaves several vital reforms unaccomplished, it is a modest improvement over existing law. However, in the universe of possibilities, this is nowhere near the best bill that could have passed.”
The House version of SB 844 resulted in uniform statewide criticism of House Republicans. The Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal called the House version “a perversion of ethics,” while The Kansas Star said it “set a new bar for skullduggery and cynicism” and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dubbed it the “Omnibus Bad Idea Act of 2010.”
Unfortunately, key reforms didn’t make it into the final bill. One would have outlawed the practice of lawmakers simultaneously running political consulting businesses, a practice that creates inherent conflicts of interest when a lawmaker/consultant can control the fate of his client’s legislation. Another called for imposing a waiting period before lawmakers who leave the General Assembly can become lobbyists. And most importantly, the bill fails to reinstate campaigns contribution limits, which were originally imposed by Missouri voters but repealed by Republican lawmakers in 2008.
“This bill is a small step forward, but much remains to be done to improve accountability and integrity in state government,” said Assistant House Minority Leader J.C. Kuessner, D-Eminence.