Senate ethics bill aims to curb corruption

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate perfected a bill that would ban legislative out-of-state trips paid for by lobbyists and put a two-year waiting period on legislators becoming lobbyists once out of office. However, many legislators believe far more can be done.

The bill, which will soon face a third reading in the Senate, could be passed on to the House of Representatives. Based on the 31-0 preliminary vote on Wednesday afternoon, that is expected to happen.

Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Couer, believed this bill is a step in the right direction but still needs many more restrictions on lobbyist contributions.

"Missouri is known as the state that has no limits. We need to add campaign contribution limits and encourage transparency in lobbyist behavior," Schupp said.

When perfecting the bill on Wednesday, the Senate tried to add amendments setting contribution limits and promoting more transparency in lobbyist-representative interaction. However, Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who proposed the bill, had them dismissed.

Representatives on both sides of the aisle endorsed the amendments, but the amendments were nonetheless dismissed.

"This is not an issue of partisanship, it's an issue of ethics," Schupp said.

Schupp said since adding campaign contribution limits would level the playing field in terms of spending, lobbyists may not even be opposed to this legislation. 

If the bill is passed through the Senate as expected, it would then move to the House of Representatives for final approval. Should the bill pass, it would take effect in 2017 and wouldn't impact current representatives.

Schupp said the measure would be a good first step, but many representatives want the bill and consequent ethics bills to go even further in their limiting of lobbyist contributions. 

"As representatives, we need to not benefit from our position. We are paid by tax-payer money and should be forced to be much more transparent. Any way we can, we have to level the playing field," Schupp said.