The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

April 24, 2014

Other Views: Time for reform is now

— Missourians support ethics reform. Why won’t the Legislature act? Despite many sincere and meaningful bills from both Democrats and Republicans being filed to reduce the pernicious influence of money in the legislative process, legislation to undo Missouri’s status as the only state in the nation with no limits on either lobbyist gifts or campaign donations appears stuck in mud.

A Senate debate over a proposal from Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, intended to reduce lobbyist gifts and end the revolving door between lawmaking and lobbying, gave a strong indication that state lawmakers just don’t have the courage to police themselves.

Some still want their free lunches and dinners. Others want to continue collecting six-figure checks from mostly anonymous donors. Some, knowing their time in the Legislature is almost up, don’t want to give up the possibility of sliding into a lobbyist gig or a gubernatorial appointment.

The sweet lure of quick cash is hard to ignore.

Here’s what should also be hard for those reticent lawmakers to ignore: Missourians want ethics reform. Badly.

A new poll conducted by The Wickers Group on behalf of the Missouri Liberty Project shows broad-based support, among Democrats, Republicans and independents, for serious ethics reform in the Show-Me State. The poll, conducted in March among likely general election voters, found that between 70 and 80 percent of likely voters supported five different elements of ethics reform:

• Banning free tickets from lobbyists for professional or college sporting events, hunting and fishing trips and golf outings.

• Limiting the number of meals lawmakers can accept from lobbyists.

• Barring lawmakers’ staff from working as paid political consultants.

• Requiring lawmakers to wait several years after retiring before becoming lobbyists.

• Creating a new unit in the attorney general’s office to fight abuse and corruption in state government.

Missourians want ethics reform because they want to believe in their government again. That is true of liberals and conservatives, city-dwellers and farmers, Democrats, Republicans, and everybody in between.

What is the Missouri Legislature waiting for?

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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