I'm seeing a lot of press concerning ethics reform. Some paint a picture of a process gone crazy with money pouring in from all sides. I have to admit, it does appear to need some changing. However, we had some pretty effective ethics rules in place until the Missouri Supreme Court, at the urging of special interest groups, voided the law. That leaves us without the transparency and guidelines that we certainly need. The trouble with true reform is that all political parties need to be on the same footing. As an example, if funding from all special interest groups was eliminated, we would need to define a "special interest group" If contributions from business groups were banned then wouldn't it make sense to ban contributions from labor groups? When we had individual contribution limits, some organizations simply listed hundreds of individuals. The Supreme Court has classified individual campaign contributions as free speech so there is no point attempting to limit those. Lobbyist money and influences are the first thing we need to address and Senator Richard has done just that in a bill he pre-filed this week. He starts by banning any member of the General Assembly or candidates for these offices from acting as paid political consultants. It goes on to impose a two-year cooling off period after leaving office before becoming a lobbyist. It proposes a number of rules governing what and when a lobbyist can spend money to influence legislation. You can find the whole bill on the Mo.gov website under Senate Bill 11.
At the Annual Meeting of the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect my report on our findings from last year's investigative hearings and our recommendations for solutions was accepted. I was named as Chairman for the next two years and I intend to start forming sub-committees within the next couple of weeks to deal with the problems we have identified. I had meetings with Director Decker as well as the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association while I was in Jeff City and every one is on board with making some much-needed changes. Like I've said all along, I'd much rather see us work together to make some much needed policy changes than have to create new laws to deal with our problems.
More next week, until then I am and remain in your service.