The members of the Missouri House returned from their annual Spring Break to discuss and pass legislation that would strengthen the state’s ethics laws. The House took up a bill already approved by the Senate that would limit lobbyist gifts and restrict lawmakers from becoming lobbyists. After lengthy discussion and several amendments, the House built on the work of the Senate and created an even tougher bill that contains stricter provisions.
The House made several important changes to the bill, including provisions that would:
· Create a limit of $25 for lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and all public officials. The Senate version required stricter reporting on gifts to legislators, but did not include a limit.
· Stop the revolving door for lawmakers becoming lobbyists by putting in place an immediate one-year ban for any public official leaving office. The Senate version of the bill included a two-year ban but only applied to members who begin their first term in January 2017 rather than those currently serving.
The House additions to the bill supplement several existing provisions that would ban out-of-state trips for lawmakers paid for by lobbyists; require stricter reporting requirements for lobbyist expenditures; prohibit lawmakers from serving as paid political consultants; and require all elected officials to obtain ethics training within 120 days of taking office.
Supporters said the bill represents an important step toward increasing the people’s trust in their elected officials. The bill now has to return to the Senate where the other chamber can either accept the changes made in the House and send them to the governor, or send it to a conference committee where selected members will try to iron out any differences between the two chambers.
(Photo by Missouri Times)