JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson says he could call a special session of the legislature in September. Parson commented on the possibility during a news conference with reporters Monday.
He responded to an inquiry about a possible special session dealing with ethics by saying that all options are on the table and that discussions with the House and Senate are ongoing.
Parson acknowledged that he could consider calling a special session, as previous governors have, during the upcoming annual veto session on September 12th when lawmakers will already be assembled in Jefferson City.
Focusing such a gathering on ethics would be consistent with the priorities of one of Parson’s key staff members. His Legislative Director is former Republican Representative Justin Alferman of Hermann, who sponsored a bill to ban lobbyist gifts two years in a row.
The proposal received strong bipartisan support in the House but died in the Senate. The upper chamber adopted a constitutional amendment this year that would’ve banned lobbyist gifts and modified term limits for legislators, but it failed to gain traction in the House.
A special session on ethics could also focus on the prevalence of non-profit groups within a classification that shields them from having to report their donors.
Former Republican Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned in June under a cloud of controversy, has been criticized for his connection to such an organization, A New Missouri Inc. It was founded last year to support Greitens and promote his agenda.
A New Missouri Inc. is currently involved in a lawsuit brought against it by a St. Louis attorney and former assistant attorney general, Elad Gross, who is seeking its records.
Outgoing Republican State Senator Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph was one of Greitens’ leading critics in the state legislature. He’s sponsored legislation to shine a light on the non-profits which are often associated with the term “dark money”. The proposals have received little attention in the General Assembly. Schaaf is leaving the state legislature because of term-limits.
A special session on ethics called by Governor Parson could further examine elements contained in a ballot measure that voters will weigh in on in November’s election. The proposal, known as Clean Missouri, would limit campaign contributions and lobbyists gifts and change the process for drawing up voting districts.
A recent poll by Missouri Scout showed voters strongly favored the measure, 61%-to-18%, which would establish a constitutional amendment to make the changes.
It has the support of a GOP coalition which includes former U.S. Senator John Danforth as well as Schaaf.
The effort also has received financial backing from left-leaning groups, including Billionaire George Soros. Soros’ Washington based lobbying firm donated $300,000 to a St. Louis based political committee in January. That committee, MOVE Ballot Fund, then donated $250,000 to Clean Missouri three days later. The move was criticized by Republican operatives at the time.
The Clean Missouri ballot measure is being opposed by a group chaired by former Republican U.S. Senator Jim Talent, who is being advised by Republican members of both Missouri houses. They include Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard of Joplin and well as Senators’ Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis and Caleb Rowden of Columbia.
The most contentious portion of the ballot measure is its procedure for redrawing voting districts. It calls for an independent demographer to replace commissions formed by the state legislature to handle the redistricting process. A group of citizens would have the final approval over the demographer’s work.
Rowden told Missourinet that allowing the demographer alone to redraw voting districts would be a major mistake. “To put that in the hands of one individual is really a slap in the face to Missourians,” said Rowden.