© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

House approves compromise ethics package, which now heads to governor

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 14, 2010 - After lamenting what's not in the final version of the ethics bill, House members in both parties voted this afternoon in favor of what remained.

By a margin of 153 to 5, the House sent on to Gov. Jay Nixon a 109-page compromise measure that had been overwhelmingly approved by the Senate shortly after midnight. The ethics package was the last major issue -- except for a possible economics bill -- expected to be considered by the Legislature before it formally adjourns at 6 p.m.

The guts of the ethics bill had been crafted by the Senate, a sore spot for some of the House Republican sponsors who decried the lack of support they had received from Senate Republicans.

"It's a bizarre world. I don't know what's in the water over there,'' complained state Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, one of the chief House sponsors and a member of the conference committee that hashed out the final package.

The final version curbs some controversial types of campaign activities, such as committee-to-committee transfers of campaign cash. But it stripped out most of the unrelated provisions added by the House Republicans last week -- such as a requirement that all voters show government-issued photo IDs.

The final version also dropped some original provisions sought by Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, and Nixon. Chief among them: a proposed ban on legislators acting as paid consultants to each other.

House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, said he wasn't thrilled with the final version, but "it's a move in the right direction."

If signed into law by Nixon, the remaining provisions of the bill would:

  • Allow the Missouri Ethics Commission to carry out investigations, even if it doesn't receive a complaint
  • Restructure the committee system to restrict the practice of changing money between committees
  • Require legislators to report donations of $500 or more during session and statewide elected officials to do so when the governor has bills awaiting a signature.
  • Make obstructing an ethics investigation a Class D felony.

The bill's first provision, though, is an unrelated perk -- giving every legislator a key to the Capitol dome -- that was tacked onto several bills this session by state Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau.
Nixon vetoed a bill with that provision last year. But since an ethics bill has been one of Nixon's top priorities this session, most legislators said it's doubtful he would veto an ethics bill.

Shields observed Thursday that under the state's current lack of campaign restrictions, "Missouri politicians could give seminars to Colombian drug lords on how to launder money."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.