St. Louis Public Radio News
3:14 pm
Wed January 20, 2010

Ethics bills get hearings in Mo. House committee

Jefferson City, Mo. – Two ethics reform bills received hearings today in a Missouri House committee.

The bill that appears to have the better chance of passing is one that would eliminate many of the perks enjoyed by lawmakers, such as free meals during committee meetings provided by lobbyists.

It's sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley (R, Perryville), who admits to having partaken of free meals up until a few months ago.

"I made a mistake accepting them...whenever I first came to the General Assembly, I can remember members just saying, 'Hey, this is the way it is...you don't have to pay for food here.' And you know, you're new to a situation, you come in, and you say, 'Okay, I guess everybody's doing it.' But once you take a step back and you start talking to people back home, it's not acceptable," Tilley said.

The other bill heard in committee would restore campaign contribution limits.

Limits on donations candidates could receive from a single donor were done away with in 2008 by GOP lawmakers and former Governor Matt Blunt.

The bill's sponsor, House Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota (D, Independence), says true ethics reform must include caps on how much money politicians can take in.

"It's what the people of Missouri want us to do, stop (much) of the excess that we see in donations, and really get rid of that perception that people are getting campaign donations based on the way they move legislation," LeVota said.

The Republican majorities in the Missouri House and Senate, though, oppose bringing back campaign contribution limits.

The hearings were conducted by a new Missouri House committee created specifically to handle ethics issues.