Rep. Still submits ethics reform bill for Housing Development Commission

Friday, January 1, 2010 | 4:01 p.m. CST; updated 11:05 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, has added to the number of ethics reform bills filed with the Missouri legislature.

Still's bill, which was submitted Dec. 31, is one of many ethics reform bills that have been submitted during the pre-file stage of the legislative session. Other bills were submitted by Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, House Majority Leader Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, and House Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota, D- Independence. Last week, Gov. Jay Nixon called for "four pillars" of ethics reform in a telephone news conference.

Over the past year, a former speaker of the House, Rod Jetton, was found to be accepting money from other legislators for acting as their political consultant.

“We should look at the way we’re doing business in Jefferson City,” LeVota said.

Still's bill focuses on the Housing Development Commission, which is responsible for about $4 billion dollars in construction projects, Still said.

“I just felt like it has the appearance of impropriety for these people to be giving donations … to the candidates who are in fact in charge of whether they get these million-dollar developments or not,” Still said.

When asked about the abundance of ethics bills that have been filed, LeVota pointed back to the recent representatives that have had to resign their seats amid scandal, including Jetton and T.D. El-Amin, D-St. Louis. 

Still's bill would replace the four elected officials on the commission with three appointed members. There are currently six appointed positions on the commission.

Part of the commission's mission is to finance the development and preservation of affordable housing, according to its Web site.

“Where people make big donations to government officials in hopes to get contracts, this is one of the areas that is prone for abuse,” Still said.

When asked about Still's bill, LeVota said that he thought Still was trying to "remove any type of doubt whatsoever," about the influence of donations on the commission's decisions.

Still's bill is not the only ethics reform bill to address the problem of perception. Tilley's legislative director, Aaron Willard, said Tilley's bill would try to eliminate the perception of influence through cash donations.

The governor would appoint seven people, and the speaker of the House and Senate president pro tem would each appoint one. All of the appointments would have to be approved by the Senate.

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