Nixon signs "first step" in ethics reform into law

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JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Jay Nixon signed a new ethics reform measure into law Thursday, saying it's a "first step."

House Bill 1983 prohibits statewide elected officials and members of the General Assembly from receiving compensation as paid political consultants for other state elected officials, candidates for those offices and committees that support a candidate, issue or ballot measure.

The bill is designed to be the first in a package of ethics legislation.

"Missouri's ethics laws remain the weakest in the nation," Nixon said. "There are no limits on campaign contributions, no limits on lobbyist gifts, no restrictions on the revolving door to the legislating lobby and no safeguards to prevent legislators from using their public positions for private gain."

Nixon said the bill will help remind elected officials who they are supposed to be serving.

"The members of the General Assembly are here to represent their tax paying constituents, not cash in on their political connections," he said.

Rep. Lyndall Fraker, R-Marshfield, said the bill is a step in the right direction.

"Missouri expected us to look at ethics reform seriously this year and I'm very pleased with the legislation we passed," Fraker said.

Even though the bill had large bipartisan support, not everyone was completely satisfied with what ethical issues were being addressed."

"It's not a real ethics reform bill," said Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City. "If we actually wanted to address the unethical issue around here, we'd be going after campaign finance."

Ellington said the bill could end up not having much of an impact at all.

"It does little to nothing as far as the problems that we've been talking about," Ellington said. "It requires somebody to sit out six months, and if you resign mid-term it requires you to wait until the end of that term. Most people that leave the House to go to lobby, they do it after their term's up anyways. They don't do it mid-term."

Nixon said he would like to see other ethical reforms, such as restoring limits on campaign contributions, banning gifts from lobbyists and shortening the legislative sessions.

"The bill I signed today is just the first step," he said. "There is much more work to do, and I have been very clear about the measures I believe are necessary to restore the public's trust."