02/07/19 -- HB 445 -- Mirrors the provisions of Clean MO on local government bodies
HB 445 was introduced by Shamed Dogan (Republican - District 98), and as originally written was not appealing, but I might have been able to consider it. As introduced, it simply prohibited lobbyist gifts to local government officials. While I am not generally pleased by the concept of lobbyist gifts, I don't categorically loathe them, as there are plenty of times "gifts" are simply expenditures that facilitate a discussion. For example, taking someone to lunch in order to discuss a particular piece of legislation is far different in my mind than giving a lawmaker tickets to a sporting event.
Unfortunately, most laws limiting lobbyist gifts make very poor (if any) distinctions between the two, and as a result go too far. The original version of HB 445 did go too far in my opinion. That said, I am willing to consider that harsh restrictions on lobbyist gifts might be permissible under the theory that even if they don't unduly influence someone, the resulting erosion of public confidence in the system might not be worth it. I'm not completely sold on that argument, but I am open to having my mind changed.
Sadly, after perfection, HB 445 became far more than simply a lobbyist gift ban. While Representative Nick Schroer (Republican - District 107) offered a great amendment protecting constituent privacy (0895H01.22H), a subsequent major amendment offered by the bill sponsor made this bill something I could not support. As I wrote about previously, HB 445 was amended to include several provisions that mirror those in MO Amendment 1 (also known as Clean Missouri) -- while Clean MO placed restrictions on the General Assembly, HB 445 as amended places similar restrictions on local elected officials. Such restrictions include campaign contribution limits, waiting periods on becoming lobbyists, and more.
As I've stated in the past, campaign contributions are a major violation of the 1st Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech and expression. Laws restricting one's future employment options are restraint of trade. These concepts were wrong when they were include in Clean Missouri, and they are wrong here. While I understand the emotional appeal of making all politicians suffer under a uniform set of restrictions, it is neither reasonable nor right to apply a bad law to another group simply to achieve equality. To state it plainly, if you come across a pile of crap, scoop it up and throw it away. Don't spread it around.
Despite this bill being widely supported within the Republican caucus, I voted no. It did pass anyway, though not entirely down party lines. You can view the roll call vote here.