Ethics reform bill passes committee, moves to the House floor

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JEFFERSON CITY - An ethics reform bill banning state legislators from receiving gifts from lobbyists passed a House committee vote Tuesday. The bill is expected to move the House floor next week. 

Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, sponsored the bill, which the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee passed unanimously. The committee heard testimony and asked questions about the bill for more than an hour.

Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis County, expressed concern over undue influence and questioned whether a specific dollar amount should be part of the ban.

"I think it's absolutely positive, having questions being addressed in the committee process should be exactly what we do in the Missouri House," Alferman said. "Maybe things we hadn't thought of previously and hashing those out in the committee process versus doing it on the floor, it makes for a better product."

The committee also considered but rejected a bill that would require legislators who want to register as a lobbyist to dissolved candidate committees before becoming a lobbyist. Under this bill, legislators could return contributions to the person or organization the money were received from, they could donate the money to charity, or they could transfer the money to another candidate or political party. The bill was dismissed early due to confusion of the wording and questions raised about the time line the bill presented. 

Alferman said, "These ethics bills are definitely a step forward in making sure that the general public is confident in the type of people that they send to Jefferson City to know that we're doing their work and not just doing work that's going to benefit us by receiving gifts."

Democrats say the ethics reforms are a good first step moving forward, but argue that more should be done.

Mitten said, "I think the lobbyist gift ban is a great step. That's a great first step, that's a great baby step, but it is only a baby step. Again, the elephant in the room is unlimited campaign contributions."

Alfermann said his bill can go to the House floor as early as Thursday, and he expects it will be voted on next week.

 

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