The sponsor of a key ethics reform proposal that the House passed in 2016 believes it has a stronger chance of becoming law in 2017.
Hermann Republican Justin Alferman filed in 2016 legislation that would ban gifts from lobbyists to state legislators. It passed the Missouri House but did not reach the governor.
Alferman has filed that legislation for the 2017 session and said he expects it to have more vigorous support from the administration of Governor-Elect Eric Greitens.
“Governor [Jay] Nixon’s office didn’t coordinate with myself, didn’t coordinate with [House Speaker Todd Richardson] on any of the ethics bills that he took credit for,” said Alferman. “Governor-Elect Greitens has already called me and I’ve already been in talks with his staff in order to craft a better bill.”
Alferman said the incoming governor’s staff is pleased with the position the House took last year of an all-out ban on gifts, rather than setting a limit.
“The House has proven our position is going to be zero. We can’t even start negotiating on what the final bill’s going to look like until we get it back from the Senate,” said Alferman. “Between infinity and zero … there’s a lot of wiggle room.”
The 2016 bill stalled in the Senate where, Alferman said, some senators worked to defeat it, but he says some among them are no longer in office.
“Having the executive branch that is going to be a major driver in this is going to be extremely helpful in getting this done this year,” said Alferman. “[Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard and Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe] have been extremely helpful in at least giving it floor time last year and getting it to the point that it did.”
The legislature passed and Governor Nixon signed into law three ethics reforms in 2016 – bills that bar elected officials from hiring one another as paid political consultants; bar statewide elected officials, members of the General Assembly, or appointees subject to Senate confirmation from registering as lobbyists until six months after the end of their terms; and limit how long campaign funds can be invested and how they can be used.
Alferman said between those and policies enacted by House leadership to govern how House members and staff behave both in and out of the Capitol, and similar policies in the Senate, the public perception of the legislature should be better than it was four years ago.
“What the speaker has done and set in place has hopefully alleviated any concerns that there are of either sexual harassment or inappropriate workplace dealings that we potentially had in the past.” said Alferman.
Today is the first day legislators can file measures to be considered in the 2017 legislative session.
Update: The 2017 bill is HB 60.