The Buzz

Another session, another disappointment when it comes to ethics reform in Jeff City


So much for even a small legislative tribute to former state Auditor Tom Schweich, who made ethics reform a centerpiece of his fledgling 2016 campaign for governor before he died in February.

So much for taking even a small step towards tightening the loosest set of ethical standards in the nation.

Once again, no ethics reform in Jefferson City. Another session, another strikeout.

I must be getting soft in my advancing age. I thought this was going to be a year when the right honorables would joins hands across the aisle and actually do something in the name of good government

After all, Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard was leading the charge with a modest set of proposals that would have stopped lawmakers from immediately becoming lobbyists once they leave office. His plan would have required more disclosure when special interests buy a lawmaker a meal.

He would have halted the practice of those same special interests from paying for a lawmaker’s out-of-state travel.

Nothing extraordinary. Nothing flashy. The proposed law would have begun to address a loose-as-a-goose culture that saw House Speaker John Diehl resign in disgrace last week for sexting with a college intern.

Richard said early in the session that what he was proposing was far short of what some wanted. But a small step was better than nothing.

And we won’t even get that.

Over the years, you begin to feel like a stooge for writing column after column explaining why something needs to be done, only to see lawmakers continually walk away.

You write that Jeff City remains a legislative cesspool — and that everyone knows it. You write that the anything-goes atmosphere is ripe for scandal.

And scandal we’ve endured with FBI investigations and federal grand juries and speakers resigning at the most pivotal moment in any session.

Still, that’s not enough to spur even the most modest, common-sense reform.

Let’s end on an upbeat note. We hear lots of good things about the new House speaker, Todd Richardson. Maybe he can work with Richard and a Democratic governor who for years has talked a good game on ethics.

Come January, Richardson will begin his first full session as speaker. Come January, Nixon will begin his last session as governor.

Maybe that’s the ticket.