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So-Called "Ethics Bill" Leads to a Call For The End of The Rules Committee

Jefferson City – May 12, 2010

Missouri's legislative process is broken.

While that might be comforting to liberty loving citizens who cringe every time they hear a new law has been passed, make no mistake about it, the broken process is not gridlock that prevents freedom-stealing laws from being passed – in fact, the process often promotes them.

Common Ground, Not Compromise

It is a misconception to believe that the legislative process should be about "compromise". Compromise too often includes a surrendering of principles or capitulation to a more powerful force. In a civilized society – one in which the people have many more shared values then divergent ones – the goal of governance should be to find common ground, not force compromise.

Common ground governance maximizes liberty, harmony, and fraternity.

But instead of a fraternal environment, we have an adversarial legislative atmosphere. “To the victor go the spoils"! We're seeing that on the state and the federal level. Partisan hacks on both sides line up like medieval armies and charge one another with swinging swords and clubs. The people – common citizens - are caught in the middle. More often than not, their liberty suffers.

Omnibus Bills and the Rules Committee Steal Liberty, Promote Selfish Interests

The omnibus ethics bill passed by the Missouri House of Representatives last Thursday (SB844) is a prime example of just how broken the legislative process is in our fair state. Instead of promoting a common ground solution among the 163 representatives of the people, the rules and structure of the House concentrate the power in the hands of a few men and force the compromise of principles.

The Speaker of the House and the Chair of the all-too-powerful Rules Committee have the power to suspend normal rules and ram-rod legislation through the process without proper vetting or consideration. The result was the partisan House passage of a liberty stealing bill reminiscent of the onerous Sedition Acts of 1798.

Rules that allow the concentration of power resulted in a so-called ethics bill that:

  • Makes it against the law for an average citizen to "Attempt[s] to influence any elected official other than an elected official who represents the legislative district where the person resides" – potentially resulting in a felony conviction unless he registers as a lobbyist and submits reports.

  • Creates other felony penalties for violation of complex campaign and election laws – penalties which dissuade average citizens from involvement in the political process.

  • Diminishes the people's power to use the initiative and referendum petition process to overrule a legislature which has become oppressive or unresponsive to their needs.

  • Opens the door to bribery of elected officials by allowing unlimited, unreported "honorarium [given] in recognition of legislative service". "Honorarium" includes cold cash.

Maybe these absurd provisions were mere “bargaining chips” for negotiation purposes, but the people's representatives should not gamble with the people's core rights!

Fortunately for liberty loving Missourians, the omnibus ethics bill will be reconsidered by a "conference committee" today, where hopefully more level heads will prevail. Still, the protection of Missouri citizens' right to " influence any elected official” other than their own rests in the hands of only about 10 men or women who were hand-picked by the leaders of the House and Senate.

The rest of the body will only be given the chance to vote the bill up or down, not affect the content and who wants to go on record as voting against “ethics”. We can only hope that "common ground" principles will prevail and that the people's liberty won't be compromised!

In the mean time, let's learn from this fiasco. The lesson is that far too much power is concentrated on too few hands in the Missouri General Assembly. The use of omnibus bills and the Rule Committee introduced by former Speaker Rod Jetton should be abolished. All the people of Missouri should enjoy true representation!

By Ron Calzone, director
Missouri First, Inc.


" Partisan hacks on both sides line up like medieval armies and charge one another with swinging swords and clubs. The people – common citizens - are caught in the middle.

More often than not, their liberty suffers."


Download a PDF of SB844 with notes: HERE

Download Missouri First eval of SB844 HERE.

Click here to read about the importance of the petition process to a healthy constitutional republic.