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Missouri House sends three bills to the Senate, including a ban on lobbyist gifts

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
Floor of the Missouri House, which sent three bills to the Senate on Wednesday.

It was a short but busy day for the Missouri House, as they sent three bills - on lobbyist gifts, human trafficking and hair braiding - to the Senate on Wednesday.

For the third year in a row, the House passed legislation banning most gifts from lobbyists to elected officials. The exceptions allowed in the lobbyist gift ban include flowers for weddings, funerals and similar events, and free food at catered events as long as every lawmaker and statewide elected official is invited.

State Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, has sponsored each version of the proposed gift ban since 2016, including this year’s measure.

“It is literally the exact same version of the bill that this entire body voted on last year, (and) that vote had only five dissenting votes,” he said. “There should be no surprises in this bill for anybody.”

This year’s gift ban passed 134 to 12. Fellow Republican Rick Brattin of Harrisonville was among the “no” votes.

“I do believe what this bill will do is remove transparency and drive these things underground,” Brattin said.

While not illegal, lawmakers are required to report the number of gifts from lobbyists and their dollar value to the state. Several Democrats voted “yes,” but said the bill should have required public disclosure of anyone who accepts allowable gifts.

It now goes to the Senate, where two similar bills have died the past two years. Past complaints from some Senate members include wondering whether it would be illegal to accept such things as chewing gum or breath mints from a lobbyist.

Human trafficking

The Missouri House has passed legislation designed to further combat human trafficking. It would require that posters including a national human trafficking hotline be displayed at airports, train and bus stations, strip clubs, and any business with prior citations for prostitution. Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis, voted for the bill, saying the city has a high rate of human trafficking.

“The greatest fear I have is something like this happening to my daughter,” he said. “Many of us, I’m sure, who have children, we think about (it) every time we’re in the grocery store, (or) every time we’re somewhere public, that you could lose that person.”

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Patricia Pike, R-Adrian. It would require the posters be in place by March 1, 2019. It passed overwhelmingly 139 to 5 and now goes to the Missouri Senate.

Hair Braiding

Renewed efforts at reducing regulations on hair braiding salons in Missouri are moving forward. The House passed a bill that would exempt hair braiders from having to be licensed by the state’s Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners. Representative Cora Faith Walker, D-Ferguson, voted for the bill, but wished it had required a $100 exam on health-related training. 

State Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, sponsored legislation aimed at reducing regulation of hair braiding.
Credit Tim Bommel I House Communications
State Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, sponsored legislation aimed at reducing regulation of hair braiding.

“There’s the potential for hair loss, scalp damage, all kinds of issues that are related to people who are not trained well to be able to do the braiding,” Walker said.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, would require hair braiders to pay a $25 registration fee and complete a self-test on scalp diseases.

It now goes to the Senate, where a similar bill died on the final day of last year’s legislative session.

The issue of hair braiding was championed last year by Gov. Eric Greitens, who said requiring braiders to have a full cosmetology license was an example of Missouri’s overregulation of small business.

Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

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