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Missouri House and Senate differ on lobbyist gifts, cooling off period

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri House on Tuesday passed the same ethics reform bill passed two months ago by the Senate, but not before making a few changes.

The biggest change to Senate Bill 11 is the proposed "cooling off" period before former lawmakers can become lobbyists.  When the measure passed in February it had a two-year waiting period, but it would not apply to anyone elected before 2017, exempting everyone currently in office.

The House adopted an amendment to reduce that to one year and tossed out the "grandfather clause," mandating that the waiting period would take effect the moment the bill became law.  It was sponsored by House Speaker Pro-tem Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg.

  "We'll work with the Senate and see what we can come up with," Hoskins said.  "I'm sure that the Senate will not agree with all our changes, and we'll...send it to conference (committee) and try and work out any differences there."

Hoskins has the backing of House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country.

"Look, there's no reason if we're going to do ethics reform to start it eight years from now," Diehl said.  "I think we felt pretty strongly that whatever we do (we) should at least attempt to apply it to us."

Another amendment was also approved, which would ban gifts from lobbyists that exceed $25 in value.

The House passed the amended ethics bill 132-14, with several Democrats joining Republicans in voting "yes."  Some Democrats still objected to the fact that the bill does not restore campaign contribution limits.

"Which is more dangerous, going out for a $100 dinner, or taking $10,000 in campaign contributions?" said Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City.  "Going to a stadium and watching a game, or receiving a $15,000 campaign check...which one would have a greater influence on a legislator?"

Other provisions in Senate Bill 11 include:

  • Barring incumbent lawmakers and candidates for House and Senate seats from working as paid political consultants for fellow lawmakers or candidates
  • Barring lobbyists from paying for out-of-state travel and related expenses for state lawmakers
  • Requiring lawmakers and state elected officials to complete one hour of ethics training within 120 days of taking office; salaries would be withheld until they complete training
  • Requiring lobbyists to report everyone they represent “to the third degree,” in order to prevent them from hiding who they really work for
  • Requiring lobbyists to report expenditures made on behalf of all public officials

House and Senate members have six weeks to hammer out a final version and send it to Governor Jay Nixon.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.