Missouri Representative Kip Kendrick and six other House Democrats filed seven ethics reform bills last week. The proposed legislation includes creating new term limits, banning gifts from lobbyists and regulating campaign committees. KBIA’s Michaela Tucker spoke with Kendrick about the bills and the upcoming legislative session.
You’ve proposed a series of “anti-corruption” bills for the state. Why is political corruption an issue in Missouri?
Corruption does exist in the Missouri General Assembly. We see examples of it each and every year. Governor-Elect Greitens ran his campaign on rooting out corruption and when the voter chose Governor-Elect Greitens, I believe they sent a clear message that it was time to change the culture. You change the culture by proposing anti-corruption legislation and pushing it through.
Many of the issues covered in these seven bills were part of the campaign platform of Governor-Elect Greitens. Why have you, as a Democrat, decided to take on the issue?
I fully believe that we need to hold the Governor-Elect accountable and hold him to his word on changing the culture in Jefferson City. I also know that this isn’t a partisan issue, that unethical behavior happens on both sides of the aisle and the people of Missouri don’t see it as a partisan issue.
Getting to the specifics for these bills, HB 213 - which you call “closing the revolving door from legislator to lobbyist” was an issue Greitens campaigned on. I think Greitens proposed it in a slightly different way, but your process is to to ban former lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for five years instead of the current six months. Can you talk to me a little bit about why this is important and why this specific time frame is important?
Mine does very a little bit from Governor Greitens’ original plan. His idea was for every year that you serve, then you have to wait a year. And that's why the five years is important. In the age of term limits, the average stay of a member of the General Assembly is five years. So if you impose a five year wait on a legislator becoming a lobbyist, then hopefully you can cycle through all of those potential conflicts of interests and at least, wait long enough to enter a lobbying profession without having the conflict existing in the building.
Another bill focuses on term limits, extending them to include all state offices. Why are term limits for these offices an important part of ethics reform?
I believe that we can all agree that term limits are necessary for the President, for the Governor, and statewide office holders are different than members of the general assembly. They're not on equal footing with their peers, they're in individual office, all by themselves. At times they can sit there and amass power and amass money in their campaign war chest without being kept in check. So that's the point that we have term limits for the General Assembly and I believe we need them for all statewide office holders.
Do you have any concerns about these bills passing?
I'm going to work to make sure House Democrats support these bills. I'm going to earn the support of Republicans as well. I also expect Governor-Elect Greitens to put pressure on members of his own party to talk to leadership to make sure they understand that this is his number one priority, this is what he ran on. In my opinion, if we can all work together, there's no reason we can't have these bills on his desk by mid-January.