Ethics | St. Louis Public Radio

Ethics

Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, is sponsoring legislation that would implement a photo ID requirement for voting.
File photo I Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome state Rep. Justin Alferman back to the program.

The Hermann Republican represents Missouri's the 61st House District, which takes in portions of Gasconade, Franklin and Osage counties. Alferman is vice chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, which is in charge of shaping the state’s spending priorities every year.

The Missouri House floor in 2016.
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Free stuff from lobbyists — anything from free meals to concert and game tickets to trips abroad — are part of the perks of being a lawmaker.

Such gifts, though, have been on the chopping block for a couple of years, with Missouri Republican legislative leaders and now Gov. Eric Greitens looking to ban them. In the face of last year’s failed efforts to ban lobbyist gifts, Greitens took quick action once in office.

Wally Siewert, the director of the center for ethics in public life at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, discussed money and politics on Thursday's "St. Louis on the Air."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Earlier this month, the spotlight was cast on the brand new nonprofit called A New Missouri Inc. Formed by Gov. Eric Greitens’ campaign treasurer, the group’s focus will be to advocate for the governor’s policy agenda. Its nonprofit status assigned by the IRS means that A New Missouri can take unlimited contributions and it does not have to release information about who gave those contributions.

Missouri lawmakers listen to Gov. Eric Greitens speak earlier this month during his State of the State address.
Tim Bommel I House Communications

If Missourians were near a television screen over the past year, they probably caught wind of how Eric Greitens wanted to overhaul the ethical culture in Jefferson City. His advertisements weren’t exactly a study in subtlety, especially when they showcased his desire to blow up politics as usual by sparking an explosion with a gun.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri House has moved fast on the latest effort to ban gifts from lobbyists, and it could send the proposal to the Senate this week.

House members gave first-round approval Thursday to this year's bill, which would ban gifts from lobbyists to elected officials, with a few exceptions such as flower arrangements and speaking fees. It's sponsored again by Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann.

As Eric Greitens is sworn in today as Missouri’s 56th governor, he’s pledging to support the state’s constitution and to serve the more than 6 million people living in the Show Me state.   

Shortly after Greitens was elected in November, his spokesman, Austin Chambers said,  “… the governor’s priorities for this first session are jobs, ethics reform, public safety and education reform."

St. Louis Public Radio recently asked listeners and readers to share their priorities  for the new governor. In addition to issues Greitens has already raised, some of his new constituents cite discounts and tax breaks for older homeowners.

State Rep. Kip Kendrick
Nathan Lawrence | KBIA | File photo

Democrats in the Missouri House are calling on Gov.-elect Eric Greitens to keep his campaign promise to clean up Jefferson City.

They've pre-filed several bills that range from banning gifts from lobbyists to giving the state ethics commission the authority to prosecute violations. Democrat Kip Kendrick of Columbia said they want to see if the incoming Republican governor is serious about ethics reform.

Officials found guilty of stealing public funds will face tougher penalties under a bill pre-filed in the Missouri Senate.

SB 176 elevates punishment for official misconduct in the first degree from a misdemeanor to a class E felony, which could bring up to a four-year prison term.

The Missouri Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Mo. Legislative action here on Thursday by Sen. Jason Crowell would refer the "right-to-work" issue to voters next year.
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Aug. 28 means  that most of Missouri's new laws passed earlier this year are now in effect.

They include House Bill 1568, which allows anyone to buy naloxone without a prescription, which can then be administered to someone suffering an overdose from heroin or a prescription opioid.  It was sponsored by Rep. Steve Lynch of Pulaski County.

The full Board of Aldermen is expected to take up the stadium funding plan next Tuesday.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Do not fear, lobbyists — your place on the floor of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen is safe for the foreseeable future.

The city's rules committee on Wednesday voted down a piece of legislation sponsored by Alderman Megan-Ellyia Green, D-15th Ward, that would have banished lobbyists to the hall, the galleries, or the side rooms at City Hall. Just one committee member, Alderman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, voted yes.

Sen. David Pearce answers questions from reporters on the last day of the legislative session.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

If there’s one constant about the last week of the Missouri General Assembly’s session, it’s that nobody in the Capitol has to search very hard to find delicious pie.

For several decades, senators have served up rhubarb pies, French silk pies, and even gooseberry pies to hungry legislators and staff. The uncontroversial and widely celebrated “Pie Day” event provides a big boost to proprietors like the Rolling Pin in Glasgow, and a bit of levity within the General Assembly's intense final days.

The Missouri Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Mo. Legislative action here on Thursday by Sen. Jason Crowell would refer the "right-to-work" issue to voters next year.
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Barring another sex scandal, the Missouri General Assembly could be facing a low-key final week.

The thinner-than-usual final schedule reflects, in part, legislators' success this year — and last — in passing the state's bloc of budget bills early. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was required to approve or veto by last Friday the state's planned spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1. He only used his line-item veto on two items on Friday; lawmakers overrode last week his earlier veto of their new school-funding formula.

Marshall Griffin|St. Louis Public Radio

The rest of Missouri's budget for the next fiscal year has been signed into law.

Last week, Gov. Jay Nixon signed the budget bill for the Department of Higher Education into law, and on Thursday he signed into law the budget bill for the departments of Mental Health and Health and Senior Services. On Friday, he sign the remaining budget bills into law.

Bob Onder
Marshall Griffin I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back Sen. Bob Onder. The Lake Saint Louis Republican was a guest on the show in 2014 soon after he was elected to his first term in the Missouri Senate.

Onder represents part of St. Charles County. His district includes most of that county’s fast-growing western suburbs, including Wentzville, O’Fallon, Lake Saint Louis and part of St. Peters.

Tim Bommel|Missouri House Communications

The first of several ethics proposals to come out of the Missouri legislature this year has been signed into law.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed House Bill 1983 during a brief ceremony in his state Capitol office. It bars lawmakers and other elected officials from hiring each other as paid political consultants.

File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are pleased to welcome state Rep. Justin Alferman to the show for the first time.

The Hermann Republican is serving his first term in the Missouri House. His heavily-GOP seat includes parts of Franklin, Gasconade and Osage counties, and it takes in most of Washington, Mo.

(via Flickr/Tracy O)

The Missouri Senate has expanded one of the proposed ethics bills passed by the House in January.

Originally, House Bill 2203 required that any money held by former lawmakers be held in bank accounts that could make that money readily available.  It was part of the House Republican leadership's approach to reforming Missouri's ethics system.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, is one of six lawmakers who is suing to stop Gov. Jay Nixon from extending bonds for a new stadium by fiat.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

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.

People mill in the hallway leading to the Missouri Senate chamber.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

At the tail end of a recent episode of the Politically Speaking podcast, state Sen. Jill Schupp was asked a fairly straightforward question: Had her colleagues learned anything from the resignations of John Diehl and Paul LeVota, two lawmakers who stepped down last year amid accusations of inappropriate behavior toward female interns?

The Creve Coeur Democrat provided a pessimistic response:

Rep. Mike Cierpiot
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum is on location in Jefferson City to welcome House Majority Leader Mike Cierpiot onto the program.

Cierpiot is the third majority floor leader to be a guest on Politically Speaking. The Lee’s Summit Republican is responsible for bringing bills up for debate, making him one of the more important lawmakers in the Missouri General Assembly.

File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

I usually start off this column with a snappy quote, noteworthy anecdote or a rather tenuous connection to a 50 Cent song.

But after experiencing a very, very, very eventful week in Jefferson City filling in for St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin, I thought it might be worthwhile to trot out some loose observations that might have fallen through the cracks:

Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, strongly questioned whether the legislature was taking the right focus with its ethics overhaul.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Since a high-profile sex scandal was partly responsible for torpedoing the end of the 2015 session, some lawmakers have made improving the ethical climate of Jefferson City a priority.

But even though the Missouri House passed a flurry of bills early this session, some Missouri senators think the ethics push so far is missing the mark.

The Missouri Senate is poised to pass the first major set of bills of the season: Six ethics bills are scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor Monday.

A rendering of the proposed riverfront stadium
Courtesy of HOK

Two more ethics bills are headed to the Missouri Senate after passing through the House today. That makes six that have gone on to the Senate. 

These are both sponsored by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, and fit into a stated legislative goal of improving government oversight and accountability.

Gina Mitten
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome state Rep. Gina Mitten to help break down Gov. Jay Nixon’s final State of the State address.

A Democrat, Mitten is a lawyer and resides in Richmond Heights. Before she was elected to the General Assembly in 2012, she spent eight years on the Richmond Heights City Council. She received her law degree from Washington University.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Some Missouri lawmakers may want to quote the line from Top Gun: "I feel the need ... the need for speed."

It's a mere 2 1/2 weeks into the 2016 legislative session, and already the Missouri House has sent bills on ethics and voter photo ID over to the Senate. The Senate, in turn, has sent a bill to the House that would put new rules in place for expert witness testimony.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers will try to make the most of a short week, which could include the next batch of ethics bills.

The shorter work week is due to the Martin Luther King holiday, as well as Gov. Jay Nixon's State of the State Address Wednesday night.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:49 p.m. Jan. 14 - In Missouri, it usually takes a few weeks or even a month for the first bills to be completely passed out of one chamber and sent to the other, but not this year.

The Missouri House fast-tracked four ethics bills and on Thursday passed them on to the Senate, during the first full week of the legislative session.

The Missouri House committee on government oversight and accountability passed four ethics bills on Monday and could be debated on the House floor as early as Wednesday. 1/11/16
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri House Republicans are keeping their foot on the gas as they steer the first group of ethics bills through their chamber.

Four ethics bills were heard by a House committee, then easily passed after little more than an hour's worth of discussions.

Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications

It appears that Republican leaders in the Missouri House and Senate are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to ethics changes.

During his opening speech, House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said he'll refer all ethics bills to committee on Thursday, a move that often takes place days, weeks, and sometimes months after the start of a legislative session.

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