Six House Republicans opposed a measure receiving second round approval Thursday that would limit lobbyist gifts to legislators and statewide elected officials. No Democrats opposed it. The proposal would exempt flowers, plants, speaking fees and gifts to all 197 state lawmakers, like free food at the capitol.
The House members who opposed the measure were Reps. Kurt Bahr (R-St. Charles), T.J. Berry (R-Kearney), Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove), Jim Neely (R-Cameron), Jeff Pogue (R-Salem) and Bryan Spencer (R-Wentzville).
Governor Eric Greitens (R) campaigned largely on ethics reform. House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) has vowed to make a lobbyist gift ban the first bill to pass this year out of his chamber.
Bill sponsor, Justin Alferman (R-Hermann), says the legislation would ban individually consumable items from being gifted to legislators.
“Things that are not going to be able to happen anymore (are) sporting events tickets, individual lobster dinners” says Alferman. “Things like that that have been the most egregious examples of people taking advantage of the system that we have now.”
Rep. Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City) says lobbyist gifts tarnish the reputation of the entire institution.
“I would say this bill is not perfect, but it’s a huge improvement over what we have currently. There will be plenty of opportunities for me cut off my nose to spite my face, but this issue is too important to do that,” says Arthur.
Rep. Jon Carpenter (D-Gladstone) says lobbyists spent about $250,000 last year on gifts to Missouri lawmakers.
“I do think it’s important that we be honest though with the people of Missouri,” says Carpenter. “After we do this, yes, we’ve reigned in lobbyist gifts and significantly, but we’re still going to be accepting a quarter-million dollars a year in free gifts from lobbyists in free meals.”
Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) says some want to misrepresent the issues with lobbyist gifts.
“I think the gift problem came from $10,000 meals at CiCi’s, not because the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association hosts a breakfast in the bottom of the Capitol basement every year and they give us breakfast because they know that the House, sometimes like an Army, moves on its stomach.”
The bill requires final approval before it goes to the state Senate for consideration.