This Week’s Legislative Column from Senator Mike Cunningham

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Improving Legislative Ethics

One of the main goals of the General Assembly for this past legislative session was to improve the ethical standards to which Missouri lawmakers and elected officials are held. The House and Senate were able to pass some meaningful, targeted pieces of legislation that aim to clean up the ethical guidelines here in Jefferson City and ensure that your state political leaders’ main focus is always on representing the needs of the people first.

One of the most impactful reforms signed into law this session is House Bill 1979. This legislation imposes a six-month ban for lawmakers looking to register as lobbyists after leaving their office. This “cooling off period” applies to state senators, representatives, statewide officials and any person holding an office that required a gubernatorial appointment. This measure prohibits them from leaving office early in order to avoid the six-month period as well, as the ban goes into effect only after the term for which they were elected has expired.

In my 14 years serving in the Missouri General Assembly, I’ve only witnessed this problem occur one time. The purpose of this legislation is preventative, rather than to address a rampant problem that exists in the Legislature. This bill simply ensures that elected officials are focused on the betterment of all Missourians, not just their own political and career success. Under HB 1979, a legislator will no longer be able to vacate his or her office and immediately begin earning money by influencing their former fellow officials. This bill was signed by the governor back in May, and is just one ethical advancement of many that need to be made for the betterment of the state, its people and its government.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.