A new Missouri law intended to keep lawmakers in office until their terms end has had the opposite effect for one area. Constituents in an area east of Springfield, will be without representation for the next four months after Missouri Rep. Tony Dugger resigned on Aug. 19.
Dugger, a Republican, cited the Missouri Legislature’s new time-out period
of six months before lawmakers may become lobbyists. House Bill 1979, which
goes into effect Aug. 28, imposes the six-month rule for
lobbying by former members of the general assembly, former statewide elected
officials and former holders of an office that requires Senate confirmation.
The bill passed 131-19 in the House and 31-1 in the Senate. Ed
Emery, a Republican senator who represents southwest Missouri, said he voted against the
measure because it constitutes a reduction in freedom for individuals to find
jobs after leaving office.
“We’re basically telling someone they can’t take a job when they leave
office,” Emery said. “I do support the idea that you cannot leave the
legislature during the time of your term. We have an obligation to our
constituents to serve them and I don’t believe you can quit the legislature and
go to work until you have completely filled out your term. It’s improper to
take and start a (lobbying) job if you are offered it while you are still a
Emery said he understands the perception that legislators are
being processed through the legislature to become lobbyists. However, he said
he has no objection to a lawmaker taking a lobbying job after fulfilling the
“It’s hard to say no when you’re being offered a good-paying job and
deciding what’s best for your family,” Emery said. “But I think if someone
offers a legislator a job, that legislator has committed to serving their two
years or four years and they have to serve out their entire time. The person
offering the job has to acknowledge that they can’t work until they have
fulfilled their obligation. It’s almost a contractual agreement with our
constituents. But what someone does after they leave office is not my business
But Ryan Johnson, president of the nonprofit Missouri Alliance for Freedom, on
Aug. 22 renewed his call from earlier this year to ban state policymakers from
lobbying for at least two years. Prior to the legislation passed in the 2016
session, Missouri had no policy about the issue. Lawmakers did not support the idea
to extend the time-out period to two years.
In a statement, Johnson said
House Bill 1979
only “slows down” the so-called
“revolving door” of lawmaker-to-lobbyist syndrome in Missouri. He said Missouri
Alliance for Freedom believes policymakers should have to sit out a longer time
“prior to monetizing their public service in pursuit of potentially lucrative
Johnson said Dugger’s resignation highlights the need for stronger reform. “A public office is a public trust. Once elected, an
official has a responsibility to his or her constituents. Dugger’s quitting
leaves his constituents without services and leaves them without a vote during
the upcoming veto session on critical issues like voter identification, which
He said six months is a good start but proposed forcing lawmakers to
sit out one year for each year of service. “At a minimum, we should attempt to pass a two-year moratorium on becoming a
registered lobbyist or some other type of government affairs professional or
consultant. There will be a natural temptation within the
Legislature to say that the revolving door has been dealt with, claim victory,
and move on. Instead, the Missouri Legislature should continue fighting to
strengthen the revolving door law while pursuing its other ethics reform
The Missouri Legislature’s next regular session begins Jan. 4, 2017, and
ends in mid-May. If Dugger had finished his term, he would not have been
eligible to lobby until July 1, 2017. He now will be eligible in mid-February.
Missouri’s term limits allow representatives to serve up to four two-year
terms and senators up to two four-year terms.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), eight
Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana and New
York – ban former lawmakers from lobbying for two years.
Also according to NCSL, 33 states had an enacted similar “cooling-off”
periods prior to Missouri’s action in 2016. NCSL has compiled a complete list
of so-called “revolving door” laws for each state. The information is updated
as of October 2015: http://www.ncsl.org/research/ethics/50-state-table-revolving-door-prohibitions.aspx.
Dugger, who did not return calls to AMI, is not the first Missouri lawmaker
to resign before his term expired to work for lobbying firms, political
consulting firms or other government agencies. In the past 10 years, House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden, Senate President Tom Dempsey and Sen. Chuck Gross all resigned early.