Missouri Supreme Court strikes down 2010 Ethics Law

On February 14, 2012 the Missouri Supreme Court invalidated a 2010 Ethics Reform Law because of the procedure that was followed in passing it.

Among other things, the legislation that was struck down required candidates for the legislator and State wide offices to report contributions of $500.00 or more during the session within 48 hours of receiving them, it also bans certain committee to committee money transfers that although cumbersome had been intended to make the original source of contributions more obvious to the public.

The Law had given the Ethics Commission additional investigative power in which it could launch investigations on its own without receiving a complaint.

The Supreme Court Unanimously upheld March 31st ruling by Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green.  Judge Green had found the Law violated the Missouri Constitutional provisions prohibiting legislators from amending bills in such a way to change their original purpose.  The original purpose of Senate Bill 844 had to do with the Office of Administration in issuance of contracts.  The Supreme Court allowed the provisions relating to government contracting to stand.

It is worth noting that a concurring opinion, an opinion that at least somewhat agrees with the results, Judge Zell Fisher stated he would have struck down the entire Law.  Judge Fisher discussed “the judicially created doctrine” allows courts to severe unconstitutional parts of legislation and allows the other parts to stand.  Fisher found that the severance doctrine “amounts to Judges being allowed to draft legislation”.  He went on to point out it also may subvert a governor’s veto authority.

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