Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday called for Missouri lawmakers to pass new ethics legislation after the state’s most recent law was thrown out this week by the state Supreme Court because of how it was approved.
Nixon, a Democrat, said Tuesday’s court decision has left a significant gap in the state’s ethics policies and that the Republican-controlled Legislature should move quickly to restore the provisions from the invalidated law. In addition, Nixon said he would like new limits placed on how much money can be donated to political candidates and a ban on legislators doubling as paid political consultants for colleagues.
“We started this week at one level of transparency and protection. We’re ending this week at a much worse level, and the Legislature needs to come back next week and put on the front burner getting back to at least where we were,” Nixon said. “Taking huge and dramatic steps backwards in ethics laws is going to have a very negative effect on the public’s view of what we do when we do the people’s business.”
The Supreme Court concluded that the ethics law, which was passed in 2010, violated a section of the state constitution that prohibits lawmakers from amending a bill to change its original purpose. The campaign finance and ethics provisions were added to legislation that allows elected officials to use the state Office of Administration to determine the best bids for their contracts.
The struck-down ethics legislation required candidates for the Legislature and statewide offices to publicly report contributions of more than $500 within 48 hours of receiving them while the Legislature is in session. However, campaigns still must report donations of more than $5,000 within 48 hours.
The law also banned certain types of committee-to-committee money transfers in an attempt to help the public track the source of campaign contributions. And it allowed the Missouri Ethics Commission to launch investigations with a unanimous vote instead of acting only after receiving a complaint about potential ethics or campaign finance violations.
Some lawmakers said this week they want to restore much of the struck-down law. Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said he was particularly interested in the Ethics Commission’s investigatory power and preventing committee-to-committee money transfers.
Kansas City Democratic Rep. Jason Kander, who’s running for secretary of state, has filed ethics legislation that also includes new provisions to ban lawmakers from accepting lobbyists’ gifts and to require retiring legislators to wait two years before becoming lobbyists.
Nixon Calls for Lawmakers to Restore Ethics Measures