A Bill by Any Other Name - State and Federal Communications

April 5, 2012  •  

A Bill by Any Other Name

Seal of the Senate of MissouriThe 2010 ethics law increased disclosure requirements for lobbyists, banned campaign committee-to-campaign committee transfers, and gave greater investigative powers to the Missouri Ethics Commission. The court affirmed a circuit court decision holding all provisions of Senate Bill 844, except those relating to procurement, to be in violation of article III, section 21 of the Missouri Constitution, which prohibits changes in the original purpose of a bill. Senate Bill 844 violated this provision by being introduced as an act relating to contracts for purchasing but being passed as an act relating to ethical administration.

Reaction to the decision has been swift and urgent. On January 14, 2012, the same day the opinion was released, the Missouri Ethics Commission stated in a press release that the court’s decision “deals a blow to the Commission’s ability to enforce and administer the law.” Several lawmakers and Governor Jay Nixon quickly called for bills to reinstate the voided provisions. Representative Jason Kander sponsored a bill (House Bill 1756) filed the day after the decision that would reinstate the voided provisions.

Prior to the decision, Kander also sponsored a bill (House Bill 1080) that would go beyond Senate Bill 844 to prohibit gifts from lobbyists and limit campaign contributions. Senate Bills 546 and 825 propose contribution limits. Senate Bill 826, filed by Senator Crowell, would reenact the voided provisions of Senate Bill 844. Currently, Missouri does not have any campaign contribution limits and is the only state to allow lawmakers to receive both unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited gifts from registered lobbyists.

Not all of Missouri’s lawmakers are ready for change. House Majority Leader Tim Jones believes an ethics bill would have a better chance after this year’s elections. Jones notes that both Kander and the governor are proposing limits that will go into effect after their own campaigns benefit from the status quo.  To date, no new ethics bill has been passed in Missouri, by any name.

Image of the Seal of the Missouri Senate by Tom Lemmens on Wikipedia.

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