The Buzz

TheChat: Ron Richard takes aim at ethics reform in Missouri

Finding good quotes is easy on the first day of a legislative session.

▪ “I will be pushing an ethics reform bill that will create transparency of the meals legislators receive from lobbyists, tighten laws on who and what has been reported, and ban out-of-state travel.” — Missouri Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican.

This is a first step at digging into the wild-West culture of Jeff City politics that continues to permit unlimited gifts from lobbyists and unlimited campaign donations. Richard’s approach would increase transparency and stop lobbyists from flying lawmakers all over the country. But other gifts could still flow, and Richard would not halt the $1 million and $750,000 campaign donations the state has experienced of late. Still, it’s movement on an issue that desperately needs it.

▪ “For our society and system of government to function, citizens must have trust in our public institutions. But trust is difficult when there is a widespread perception that the rules are applied on a sliding scale that becomes more strict and onerous the lower one ranks on the economic spectrum.” — Missouri House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, a St. Louis Democrat, outlining the Democratic agenda this year in the state Capitol, which reflects the months of unrest in Ferguson.

Hummel is talking about reforms to the state’s municipal court system, improved police training and changes to how allegations of excessive police force are investigated.

▪ “If one freshman representative could not only break this body’s antiquated racial barriers, but sponsor legislation to transform higher education for African-Americans in Missouri, just imagine what each of us here can do during this 98th General Assembly.” — Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat, opening the 2015 session on Wednesday.

Kander was referring to state Rep. Walthall Moore, a St. Louis Republican, who became the first African American to serve in the General Assembly back in 1921. Moore did something else notable. As a freshman, he wrote and passed legislation that enabled Lincoln University to become one of the Midwest’s top colleges for blacks.

▪ “A problem.” — Kansas Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike O’Neal talking about the level of taxation in the state.

Despite historic tax cuts, O’Neal said a chamber survey of 300 business owners determined that taxes continue to be a problem. Some 56 percent of survey respondents said they pay too much in taxes with 36 percent saying the amount they pay is about right and 6 percent saying they didn’t pay enough. (quote and survey totals courtesy of Hawver’s Capitol Report).