House votes to send latest lobbyist gift ban proposal to Senate

The Missouri House has for the third straight year proposed a ban on lobbyist gifts to legislators and other elected and appointed officials.

Representative Justin Alferman (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The House voted 134-12 Wednesday to send to the Senate House Bill 1303, sponsored by Hermann Republican Justin Alferman.  The bill would bar lobbyists from giving gifts to government officials – things such as meals or tickets to concerts or sporting events.  It would allow lobbyists to pay for gifts at events in Missouri when all members of the legislature or all statewide officials are invited at least three days before the event.

“We’re trying to alleviate the one-on-one interactions that sometimes have personally consumable items given to individual legislators in the State of Missouri,” said Alferman.  “I think it’s important … that we as legislators tackle these tough issues and show the State of Missouri and its citizens that we are capable of handling complex issues like ethics reform.”

The bill specifies what elected and appointed officials could still receive.  That includes things like entrance fees to events at which they are participating in a ceremony; flowers or plants as expressions of condolence or congratulations; and plaques or awards.  It would also eliminate the requirement that lobbyists report having given such gifts.

Representative Peter Merideth (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Democrats wanted to restore those reporting requirements.  They also proposed that the bill should include penalties for lawmakers who violate it.  Their proposed amendments were rejected last week, though the bill still received broad bipartisan support.

“I do wish that we had included in the bill some provisions of transparency with regard especially to the new exemptions for allowable expenditures that are for individual legislators,” said St. Louis representative Peter Merideth (D)“I also do wish that we had added provisions to make ourselves accountable under this bill … However with that said I still think this is an improvement from current law and so I will be supporting it.”

The vote came a year to the day after the House last voted to send a gift ban proposal to the Senate.  Neither that bill nor the one the House approved in 2016 were approved by that chamber.