Did you miss it? State Representative Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, who represented the area around Mountain Grove and Mansfield, MO, resigned his post last week. His resignation, while not unexpected, is making headlines around the state because House Bill 1979 becomes law this week.
HB1979 attempts to close the revolving door of legislators becoming lobbyists.
In truth, it only slows it down by one legislative session. Starting this week, legislators will have to sit out six months prior to monetizing their public service in pursuit of potentially lucrative lobbying careers.
Tony Dugger’s resignation does not make him a bad person. It does, however, illustrate the need to robustly close the revolving door.
A public office is a public trust. Once elected, an official has a responsibility to his or her constituents. Dugger’s quitting leaves his constituents without services and leaves them without a vote during the upcoming veto session on critical issues like voter identification which Tony championed. It’s unfortunate to say the least.
A six month cooling off period is a good start, but it is just that. A start. Some have proposed a 1:1 ratio. You serve for a year, you sit out for a year. At a minimum, we should attempt to pass a two year moratorium on becoming a registered lobbyist or some other type of government affairs professional or consultant.
Speaker Todd Richardson and his team should be congratulated for successfully moving a few essential pieces of ethics reform through the General Assembly this year. There is more left to do, and ethics reform will continue to be a priority of the Missouri House of Representatives under his leadership.
There will be a natural temptation within the Legislature to say that the revolving door has been dealt with, claim victory, and move on. Instead, the Missouri Legislature should continue fighting to strengthen the revolving door law while pursuing its other ethics reform priorities.