Missouri legislators worry ethics bill might go too far

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 | 5:12 p.m. CST; updated 6:27 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 17, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — As debate on ethics reform continued Wednesday in the Missouri Senate, some lawmakers said they worried the legislation might be going too far.

The morning's debate centered around an amendment filed by Sen. Jason Crowell, R- Cape Girardeau. The amendment would require former legislators to wait two years after leaving office before they are eligible to be appointed to a state departmental position or become a lobbyist.

Opposition to Crowell's amendment came largely from legislators who expressed concern that restricting former legislators from accepting lobbying jobs would jeopardize the quality of state government operations.

Majority Floor Leader Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said he worried that making it too difficult for former legislators to become lobbyists would compromise the institutional knowledge of the state government and open up important positions to amateurs.

"Why would we want elected officials to have any experience?" Engler said sarcastically. "Give us retired, unbusiness-like people who don't have jobs. Don't give us anybody with any experience."

Others, such as Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, said stricter rules could also discourage people from running for political office in the first place.

"We are precluding people from service," Bartle said. "It's getting to the point where I'm wondering why anybody with any sanity at all would want to come down here (to Jefferson City)."

Crowell, however, defended the measures taken by his amendment and said a "cooling off period" should be required before former legislators can become lobbyists.

"You do not take pizza from the oven and put it straight in your mouth," Crowell said. "I believe that we should not take our legislative service and put it right in our own mouth."

Crowell said lawmakers should not be entitled to receiving six-figure salaries immediately after leaving the legislature.

A vote on the ethics reform bill and Crowell's amendment was delayed pending further debate.


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