Missouri Senate passes one House ethics bills, stalls another | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Senate passes one House ethics bills, stalls another

Feb 24, 2016

The ethics reform freight train that began rolling in the Missouri House has slowed down in the Senate.

Nearly a week after erasing language that would have created a one-year cooling off period before former lawmakers could become lobbyists, the Senate has put the brakes on a House bill to ban lobbyist gifts.

House Bill 2166 was set aside after about three hours of debate. Republican Dave Schatz of Franklin County and Democrat Kiki Curls of Kansas City discussed whether the proposed gift ban is too broadly written.

"Has anybody ever seen there's leftover pizza and had a piece of it?" Schatz asked. "Would I know if there was a box of pizza, and I came by your office, that a lobbyist paid for that pizza, and I walked by and I picked up a piece and ate it, and all of a sudden now I'm guilty of violating the thing that we've banned everybody from partaking in!"

"I agree with you," Curls said. "I think we need to have time to think about this, because in a number of ways I'm thinking (there could be) potential unintended consequences."

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, would ban lobbyists from catering meals for legislators.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Before the bill was set aside, an amendment was added that would ban lobbyists from catering meals for various lawmaker gatherings, including committee meetings. It was sponsored by Senator Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

"Taxpayers already foot the bill for $103 per day per diem for each legislator to pay for food and lodging," he said. "If that's not enough, then it would be better to increase the amount of the per diem than to let lobbyists fill in the gap."

Lobbyists regularly provided meals at House committee meetings until last year, when former House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, banned the practice.

Schaaf sponsored another amendment that was also approved, which would set a $50 limit on plaques, awards and other honorary recognition given to lawmakers by lobbyists and other special interest groups.

Meanwhile, a different ethics bill passed unanimously Tuesday night, 31-0. House Bill 1983 would bar lawmakers and statewide officeholders from hiring each other as political consultants. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, carried the bill in the Senate and made a few changes to the language before the vote.

"If you had a printing shop business and then you were elected to office, you're not actually a paid consultant, but your business does the producing of the literature that may go out in a campaign," he said. "We're not stopping that."

The changes, along with a few other technical amendments, mean the bill now goes back to the House, which can either accept them, or reject them and force a conference between the two chambers to hammer out a final version.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport