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Are you a lobbyist? Some aldermen want to kick you off the floor of their chamber

Aldermen Joe Vaccaro (rear standing) and Shane Cohn (front standing) debate the minimum wage increase on July 20, 2015.
File photo | Sarah Kellogg | St. Louis Public Radio
A group of aldermen want to keep lobbyists off the floor of the chamber while they are in session.

The introduction of honored guests is a weekly ritual at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

Residents of the city's 28 wards are welcomed to the chambers, and allowed to sit on the floor rather than up in the gallery. But more often than not, most of the honored guests would be considered lobbyists.

A group of younger aldermen wants to make the weekly welcomes take a lot less time by banning lobbyists from the floor of the Board while they are in session — "if for any reason at all, optics," said Alderman Megan-Elliya Green, D-15th Ward.

Lobbyists would be free to linger in the gallery or the halls, or roam around in the committee room beside the chamber, Green said. But even the Missouri General Assembly doesn't allow lobbyists on the floor in Jefferson City.

"Anybody who is part of the greater St. Louis constituency can come and testify at a committee hearing, and make their voices heard on something," she said. "Where that lobbying should not be occurring is on the floor during debate."

Green is also co-sponsoring legislation that would cap campaign contributions for city offices at $10,000 per election cycle, defined in the bill as "beginning at 12:00 a.m. on the day after the last general election and ending at 11:59 p.m. on the day of the immediately following general or run-off election." The limits would be adjusted for inflation.

Alderman Scott Ogilvie, D-24th Ward, another co-sponsor, said the legislation was motivated in part by the $100,000 billionaire libertarian Rex Sinquefield gave Mayor Francis Slay in 2015.

"That’s just not a campaign, an election system that residents support," Ogilvie said. "I think residents would much rather see candidates have to derive support from a broad base of people."

In a nod to political reality, the limits will not take effect until after the 2017 election. It will mark the first time since 2001 that Mayor Francis Slay is not a candidate.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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