Who thinks a state senator or state representative should quit their job as a public servant for a lucrative position lobbying their former colleagues?
Or who believes in citizen legislators who temporarily serve in public office then return to the lives they came from?
The concept of a citizen legislator is simple: if you are a farmer go back to farming, a doctor should return to her/his patients, an engineer goes back to engineering. A citizen legislator should not use their years accumulating power and influence for self-gain to profit from their public service.
Yet in Missouri former legislators have done just that. Quitting early for lucrative lobbying careers and angling for a lobbying job while still a member of the legislature has become something of a pastime in Missouri. Closing the revolving door of legislators becoming lobbyists deals with the perception of impropriety and ends a practice that lends itself to potential public corruption.
Cleaning up the practice of Jefferson City’s revolving door is the reason for Rep. Caleb Rowden’s House Bill 1979 (carried in the Senate by Sen. Bob Onder). It puts in place a one year cooling off period that will make legislators sit out for at least a year before lobbying. It passed the House early and with overwhelming support.
It was the Senate that gutted his bill. Senator Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, offered an amendment to strip out the one year cooling off period making the bill worthless. His amendment passed and for now the revolving door remains open.
Adding insult to injury the Senate played cute by allowing his amendment to have a vote by the practice of standing division. This means there is no written record of who voted to gut the revolving door bill except ours. It helps that we are in the Capitol watching.
A few of the Senators from the majority party who gutted the bill and left the revolving door open (from our observation) are:
• Senator Ed Emery
• Senator Mike Kehoe
• Senator Doug Libla
• Senator Dave Schatz
• Senator Wayne Wallingford
• Senator Paul Wieland
That was not the end of it though. The Speaker of the House Todd Richardson, who has made placing meaningful ethics reform on the Governor’s desk a top priority this year, had some choice words for his colleagues in the Senate.
“If that means I have to put ethics reform on every single Senate bill that comes over here, I’m willing to do it,” Richardson said.
For his part too President Pro Tem of the Senate Ron Richard has offered strong support for real ethics reform.
Missouri Alliance for Freedom thinks meaningful ethics reform should be a priority. Closing the revolving door is a step that limits the power of government officials from using their influence for self-gain which in turn helps limit the potential for public corruption.
There should be no illusion that the gutted ethics reform bill will be scored in a positive light. When it comes to trying to gauge governing philosophy a more instructive vote would be the Shatz Amendment that destroyed the revolving door bill.
As we enter the final week of February there is time for the Missouri General Assembly to get ethics reform right. The Missouri Scorecard is still a work in progress. The revolving door can still be closed. Let’s work to encourage our legislators to do the right thing.