A $40 spending cap per occasion on lobbyist gifts for state lawmakers has received preliminary approval by the state Senate. The measure is one of several ethics proposals this year. Republican leadership in both chambers have said ethics reform is a top priority this legislative session.
Senator Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) wants a total gift ban but Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) says that’s not going to happen.
“You must think that it’s okay to go to $40 a gift,” asked Schaaf.
“I like $40 better than $50,” said Onder.
“But you like $40 better than zero,” asked Schaaf.
“No, I like zero better,” said Onder.
“Then why are you doing this,” asked Schaaf.
“I don’t think zero is going to make it through this chamber,” said Onder.
“Basically this means that one lobbyist could take us to breakfast. Another lobbyist could take us to lunch. Another lobbyist could take us to supper. Another lobbyist could take us for a midnight snack. A $40 bottle of wine,” said Schaaf.
“We’re working in the right direction,” said Onder. “Right now, the sky’s the limit. This legislature took $1 million in gifts last year. So I think achieving any reasonable gift restriction is better. A half a loaf is better than no loaf.”
One more favorable vote would send the bill back to the House.
Two other ethics proposals are on Governor Nixon’s desk. One would require state elected officials to wait six months after the end of their term before they can become lobbyists. Those appointed to positions confirmed by the Senate would also have to wait. Another bill passed would require candidates registering as lobbyists to end their campaign committees and return the money to their donors or give it to a nonprofit or political party committee.
Nixon has already signed into law an ethics reform proposal this year that bars elected officials from hiring one another as political consultants.