Our passage of the voter ID issue was not without heated debate. We passed the bills both as a statutory change and as a constitutional amendment that the voters will decide. This issue has been debated here and in other states for years and what we passed last week is meant to address the primary concern of critics by providing a government issued photo ID at no charge to anyone who doesn't have one. It even includes a provision to allow those born before 1950 and who may not have a birth certificate to vote by provisional ballot. Near the end of the debate, the Speaker took the floor to tell of his experiences as a St. Louis voter judge and watching ACORN bring busload after busload of people to vote with literally no method of identification. It was later determined that they were paid to perform this duty. The proposals we passed are fair and do not hinder people from exercising their right to vote. A photo ID is necessary for some of the most ordinary daily activity, why wouldn't we require it to vote?
Various proposals for ethics reform are currently moving through both houses. The main hot spot for the media's attention this year appears to be "lavish dinners" and also the practice of lobbyists providing lunches to Committees. The other accusation concerns lobbies gifts. I'm all for doing away with the dinners. In the first place, most of them were anything but lavish. Cold roast beef, string beans, lumpy mashed potatoes, and a little slice of something similar to pie after a 12 hour day in a suit that's starting to itch, is anything but lavish. When Ameren, or the Railroad Association, or the University of Missouri wants to reach a lot of Legislators to tell us about their plans or problems, this has been the accepted practice. Lobbyists providing lunches for committee hearings does look bad. It's also uncomfortable to sit there eating with several dozen people watching you. The speaker issued orders to stop this practice. Most hearings convene as soon as Morning Session recesses at noon and last for two hours. Afternoon Session begins at 2:00 and eating anything on the floor is prohibited. You can see where this can be problematic. Most of us have solved the problem by eating a good breakfast. I've been there 5 years now and the most exciting gift foisted upon me has been a travel pack with a toothbrush and floss from the Dental Association. I'm not saying that we don't need ethics reform, we most assuredly do. We had a great law for ethics but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional so we have to start over. The real problem is that the courts say that the practice of donating money is protected by the first amendment. That means that labor unions and wealthy entrepreneurs alike can donate huge sums of money to political campaigns. There is a silver lining to this cloud; I'm not gaining any weight so far this session.