Our Call: Ethics reform a welcome addition to Jefferson City



Missouri voters overwhelmingly voted Nov. 6 for “Clean Missouri,” an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that governs ethics reform and changes the way the state conducts redistricting.

Despite our reservations about the unknown world of the redistricting part of Clean Missouri, its ethics reforms are long overdue.

The amendment limits lobbyist gifts to legislators to $5 or less, makes legislators wait two years after leaving office before lobbying, lowers campaign-finance limits to $2,000 for Missouri House candidates and $2,500 for Senate, and makes the Legislature follow the same open-records laws that it makes other government bodies follow.

The best thing about Clean Missouri is that it’s a constitutional amendment, so the Legislature can’t pass a law to overturn it. Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, has continually proposed legislation to ban lobbyist gifts, and since we’re still talking about it, legislators obviously never went for the idea.

Representing constituents with dignity rather than feeding at the trough of any and all special interests that come along with food, lodging, entertainment and travel apparently isn’t that appealing to legislators.

Jefferson City sank so low that the Legislature even holds committee meetings at country clubs and steakhouses, paid for by lobbyists.

Under the law, state legislators now have to abide by the Sunshine Law and have their records opened — something that any other government official had to do long ago. At the behest of the Legislature, no less.

There is no reason state legislators should be able to close their own records when every other public official has to open them. Other than, of course, the fact that the Legislature didn’t want to follow its own law.

It’s a win for good government that this hypocrisy can’t continue.

Opponents of opening the records have said that legislators should be able to talk to constituents in private.

But why should legislators get more privacy than aldermen, school board members, mayors and the governor?

On Jan. 9, a new crop of state legislators takes office and represents south county with a fresh slate.

They won’t be able to take large lobbyist gifts, and we think that only helps them. They’ll know, and taxpayers will know, that they’re making their decisions for reasons other than what they’ll receive in return.

Here’s to a “Clean Missouri.”