Trying to Limit Lobbyists
State Rep. Rachel Storch is proposing a limit on the dollar amount of gifts lawmakers can receive from lobbyists.
Missouri has 162 representatives and 34 senators, and each of them receives an average of $839 in lobbyists' gifts.
Storch, a St. Louis Democrat, has introduced a bill to limit the money spent to a maximum of $50 per gift. In addition, each legislator would be allowed $100 in gifts each year.
"I think it's very important that we have some rules on the books," said Storch, "and that we enforce them."
Rep. Mike Sutherland, a Warrenton Republican, said limits are a good idea, but full, public disclosure of gifts might be more effective.
"The current law in Missouri, it's fairly transparent that if the public wants to know how any money is being spent, by lobbyists or by legislators, that the public can find out about that," he said.
Sutherland also believes numbers can mislead.
"I won't go out of state on any kind of trips, on educational trips or conferences or whatever it might be, that taxpayers would pay for." he added.
So, Sutherland let lobbyists pay for an educational trip he took last year, boosting his "gift" budget.
He and Storch agree lawmakers need to change the system.
A similar bill limiting gifts from lobbyists took effect in 1995, but Missouri lawmakers voted it out in 2005.
Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives plan to introduce a similar proposal toughening limits on gifts from lobbyists, while easing access to information about lobbyists' activities.