Two Missouri House committee hearings have been set to take place at the Jefferson City Country Club this week, and that is drawing criticism.
The first hearing to be scheduled was that of the Committee on Utility Infrastructure, chaired by Representative Lyndall Fraker (R-Marshfield). He told Missourinet the Missouri Energy Development Association made the arrangements for his committee to meet at the Country Club, will pay for the meal, and will offer an informational presentation.
A Kansas City Star editorial called the hearing, “business as usual in Jefferson City, where lobbyists have spent more than $1.8-million over the last two years providing lawmakers with food, drink, trips and entertainment,” according to data provided by St. Louis Public Radio. U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) called the scheduled hearing, “unbelievable.”
Fraker says he proposed the idea of an informational hearing and MEDA President Trey Davis proposed the meal.
“I posted it up as a regular meeting just so we would be transparent, so the public would know we don’t have bills to hear but we’re going to have an informative meeting, an introductory meeting for our first meeting and all the utility members of all the committees can meet one another and get to know each other and get to know Trey’s organization,” Fraker said.
He said the invitation to the hearing has been extended to the members of the Regular Standing Committee on Telecommunications and the Regular Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment.
Fraker says he wants it to be distinguished from hearings held outside the Capitol last year that also drew criticism, such as a lobbyist-paid-for meal of more than $4,800 at a Columbia restaurant.
“The one thing that I specified to Trey was … there would be no alcohol at this event and to keep the meal very conservative, in light of the fact of what happened last year,” Fraker said.
He says despite being held at the Country Club, the hearing will be open to the public and the media. Anyone attending would be admitted to the Club as guests of MEDA, but the meal would be offered only to the members of the three committees.
“We’re playing by the rules, we’re being transparent, we’re being up front,” said Fraker. “We’re not having clandestine meetings or doing anything that to me would question integrity.”
Since the Utility Infrastructure Committee scheduled its hearing, the House Telecommunications Committee chaired by Representative Bart Korman (R-High Hill) has set a hearing for Tuesday night at the Country Club.