The second session of the Missouri’s 98th General Assembly is off and running. Sen. Ron Richard and Speaker Todd Richardson set the stages for priority bills to be quickly referred to committees and work to begin.
Because it’s an election year, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and claim responsibility for moving ethics reform to the top of the list. I’m particularly amused by Gov. Jay Nixon, who took a $50,000 contribution from the unions the day after he vetoed right to work and complained about legislators receiving lobbyist’s gifts.
Bills addressing reform are not new by any means. There have been bills for the five years I’ve been there that would have corrected those issues, but there always have been one or two senators willing to spend days filibustering them.
This year will be different. We have leaders who are committed to getting the job done. I believe the end result will be a limit of $25 or less on lobbyist gifts and at least a one-year cooling off period before an elected official can become a lobbyist.
Please bear in mind that this has not been a huge problem in the past. Actually, very few legislators take gifts or trips from lobbyists, but those who do are readily pointed out in election cycles.
Our ethics reports have to list every contribution, as well as every expenditure. These reports are available to anyone who wishes to look at them. Quite frankly, I support a bill being presented next week that requires every elected official in the state to file quarterly reports with the ethics commission.
The General Assembly is set up to take a two-hour class dealing with sexual harassment. I took the same course in 1988 while I was a salesman for ABF Freightsystem. It basically teaches common sense and common courtesy, which seem to be in short supply nowadays.
In addition to training for everyone at the Capitol, interns being provided by the colleges in the state have a set of rules and regulations to follow, as well as an ombudsman provided by the General Assembly to help guide them and deal with any complaints.
There is an uproar surrounding the Real ID issue for us to deal with. While it appears from all the news hype that Missouri and three other states are the only ones not in compliance, there actually are nearly half the states that have not issued the IDs. Each state had a different compliance deadline as Missouri and the three others are the first to be called out.
In 2009, when we addressed the issue first, nearly the entire General Assembly and Nixon were opposed to certain provisions of the requirement. Nothing has changed since 2009. The issues that we took exception to are the same.