Monday, December 14, 2009

Exclusive: Tilley outlines his proposal for major governmental reform in Missouri

Over the past six months, Rep. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, has not accepted any gifts from lobbyists. If the Majority Leader has his way, other legislators will soon have to follow suit.

Tuesday, Tilley will announce a comprehensive government reform bill designed to restore confidence in Missouri's elected officials and this is not being done just for show, Tilley told The Turner Report.

"I'm not afraid to use the power of my position to make sure this bill gets done."

It has not been that long since Tilley's name was regularly featured in Turner Report posts abput Missouri politicians accepting gifts from lobbyists Previous posts about Tilley can be found at this link.

Tilley says he read the posts and did not like what he was reading. "I knew that no lobbyist gift was going to buy my vote, but I printed a couple of the stories out and showed them to my dad. He told me he knew I hadn't done anything wrong, but he said it sure looks bad."

From that point on, Tilley has reimbursed any lobbyist who paid for a meal. It is not a matter of legislators going hungry if they don't get fed by lobbyists. "We get paid for our food," he noted. "We receive a per diem."

This is not the first time he has looked at a wide-ranging reform bill, Tilley said. "We discussed doing something like this a year ago. We wanted to take a serious look at ethics. With all of the controversy surrounding a number of Democrats, including Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, Rep. Steve Brown, D-St. Louis, and Rep. Talibdin El-Amin, D-. St. Louis, pleading guilty to charges including bribery and obstruction, "it was time for something to be done to restore people's cnnfidence in government."

Tilley's bill also targets some of the problems that have been noted within his own party. One provision calls for the elimination of legislators also serving as political consultants, an ethical problem noted during the tenure of former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton.

Tilley says he will not be alone in seeking governmental reform. For the past several weeks, he has been talking with colleagues on both sides of the aisle and to senators as well as other House members. "Overall, the bill has received a positive reception," he said. "Obviously, when you try to change the way things have always been done, there are going to be challenges, but I think this bill will pass with bipartisan support."

In a news release Tilley will issue Tuesday, he notes, "The vast majority of eople who serve in the legislature are here for the right reasons, serving their constituents, and advocating their positions, but a few have the ability to taint the rest. My goal is to create a higher standard for all of us and remove the incentives that tend to be abused and cause problems."

Key provisions in the bill include:

-An end to lobbyist gifts and meals to individual members of the legislature

-An end to political consulting while serving as a member of the legislature

-A moratorium on serving as a legislative lobbyist for 180 days after a member leaves the general assembly

-Full disclosure of all members, spouses, and staff of any political employment

-Full disclosure of any financial interest of any general assembly, executive, or statewide offices, including staff and contract agents.

-Prohibition on accepting political contributions for any compensated appointment made by the governor, speaker of the House, or speaker pro tempore of the Senate that requires Senate approval for a period before and after the appointment

-A moratorium on appointing members of the general assembly to executive department positions for 180 days after they leave office

-Prohibition of any political donations being made to the governor by any entity that has a pending decision before an executive department or decision making body.

Tilley says his bill requires one thing that other ethics reform bills have not. His legislation would not only prohibit legislators from accepting gifts from lobbyists individually, but it would also end the practice of contributing to legislative committees.

Tilley said he approached the legislation with three criteria in mind:

1. "It must be comprehensive.:

2. "It must be fair."

3. "It must make an impact and prove effective."

"We expect there will be other proposals and ideas to come forward throughout the legislative process and we are open to discussing and debating each of these, however, we feel the reforms outlined in this legislation are the most straight -forward and effective measures we should pass to right the course of politics in Missouri."

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