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Bill would put the squeeze on political ethics

Bill would put the squeeze on political ethics

March 12th, 2014 in News

State Sen. John Lamping has a number of ideas for improving state government operations. And one of those is tighter ethics rules on Missouri lawmakers and the people they work with in the Capitol.

"The mission behind this bill is to focus explicitly on those in office and, in addition, those very near to those in office, and to severely restrict and/or mandate that they disclose their actions more explicitly" the Ladue Republican told the Senate's Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Like several other ethics proposals facing lawmakers this year, Lamping's bill would prohibit lawmakers from leaving the General Assembly and becoming lobbyists immediately.

"My bill would require a three-year cooling off period," he said. That is a year longer than most other proposals.

"It also would require a cooling-off period for an elected official to serve as a paid political consultant."

His bill would prevent political consultants from lobbying, too.

"Quite frankly, I think that at times, we're

taking political advice and haven't done our homework to understand who, in fact, this political consultant may or may not be lobbying to or for," Lamping explained. "This is just really to make lines of demarcation very clear.

"You're a paid political consultant or you're a paid lobbyist - you're not both."

Unlike other proposed bills, Lamping said his bill also places conditions on legislators' staff members.

"As we all know, we rely very heavily on our staff," he said. "There would be a one-year cooling-off period before they could become a paid lobbyist."

Unhappy with the current law's annual financial disclosure for lawmakers, Lamping would require a more detailed financial report at least twice a year - at the beginning of each legislative session and at the end.

He also would require staff members to file disclosure reports once a year, so that the public can determine what conflicts of interest lawmakers and their staff might have during the law-making process.

Lamping's proposed law also would require lobbyists to file more detailed reports of their work.

He would prohibit lobbyists from offering gifts of any kind to lawmakers or staff.

Lamping noted the Senate already tries to determine if someone the governor appoints to a state board or commission has been a big donor to the governor's campaigns.

His bill requires the governor to disclose that information - and then it prohibits gubernatorial appointees from contributing to the governor after their appointments. "The whole idea here is, the idea that some of these appointments may, or may not, be for sale," Lamping said.

He also would require larger local governments with operating budgets of more than $1 million, follow the same ethics laws as lawmakers.

The bill would require candidates who lend money to their campaign funds to charge interest no higher than the 90-day Treasury rate.

But, Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence noted, Lamping's bill doesn't try to limit campaign contributions.

"The biggest influence we have is the money coming into our campaign committees," LeVota said.

Lamping said he agrees with the principle, but hopes lawmakers don't stall ethics reform because it doesn't include campaign finance reform.

No one testified for, or against, Lamping's bill.