JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate rejected a proposal to remove the attorney general’s power over the state’s no-call list Wednesday.
Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, proposed handing control to the Public Service Commission in order to appease the state House in a bill that would expand the provisions of the no-call list.
“The House thinks the attorney general will use it to his political gain before the gubernatorial race,” Engler said. “They know their constituents want this stopped, want this process stopped, but they don’t want a political victory for the attorney general.”
The bill would add faxes, graphic imaging, data communications and cell phones to the do-not-call eligibility. It also requires that political solicitations disclose who paid for the solicitation.
Sen. Tim Green, D-St. Louis County, presented an amendment to the bill to keep the attorney general in charge of the list. It was approved by a 21-8 vote.
“Just because they want to roadblock good public policy to the taxpayer does not mean we need to create or eliminate something that has worked,” Green said.
Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, said leaving power in the hands of the attorney general allows that office to use that power for its political advantage.
“The no-call list has been a political milk cow ever since we established it,” he said. “The current attorney general, to his credit, very successfully has continued to milk that cow. I’m tired of this being dealt with for strictly political reasons. We need to put that cow back in the barn and protect it from all politicians, and the PSC is the place to do that.”
Shields said this power “creates a potential for conflicts of interest.”
“You have to regulate the same folks who are your contributors,” he said. “The PSC is not in the same position. They are not elected, and they don’t have campaign funds.”
But Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, said he sees the attorney general’s claiming responsibility over the no-call list as “part of their duty.”
“Is this ultimately about ego?” he asked. “Don’t we want our statewide officials, regardless of party, to promote something to make the public aware of it?”
Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said even though the attorney general’s office might use the successful program to its advantage does not mean it should change.
“I get nothing but rave reviews about the no-call list we have in this state,” he said. “Just because they do it, if it’s working, don’t take it away.”
Engler said the amendment to keep the attorney general in charge of the list likely killed the bill.
“I’d like to have it done this year because you’re going to go through the biggest phone polling that’s ever taken place in the state of Missouri with the president, with the governor, with the attorney general, the treasurer’s office, with every statewide office plus the state reps and the state senators that are up for election,” Engler said. “I think people are going to get more infuriated this year, and I just would hope that we would do something.”
The bill is on the Senate’s informal calendar, which is a list of previously discussed legislation that wasn’t voted on at the time.