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House perfects lobbyist expenditures bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri House has taken the next step in their fight for ethics reform.

House members on Thursday perfected HB 60, an ethics bill focused on changing the rules as they apply to gifts from lobbyists.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, received first-round approval from the House by a vote of 147-6.

Rep. Justin Alferman
Rep. Justin Alferman

Alferman says that such a bill is important to pass, as “what is legal is, oftentimes, not always ethical.”

Lawmakers debated two amendments to the bill on the House floor, approving the first one, which fixes some of the bill’s language and closes “perceived loopholes.”

The amendments include language that would require a 72-hour-notice to be given before any occasion, and an allowance for gifts, such as flowers, in the events deserving of condolences and congratulation.

The House voted down another amendment that would have banned candidates from reimbursing lobbyists with funds from any candidate committees. Alferman said that particular amendment was unnecessary, and was concerned that “conflicting language” might get the bill thrown out.

“In order to carry out that reimbursement as a public official, you would have had to accepted and a lobbyist would have had to have given it to you,” Alferman said. “Under this bill, there’s no way for you or a lobbyist to make an expenditure for you to reimburse, because at the point that they have given you that expenditure, you’re already in violation of this subsection.”

While lawmakers approved the bill’s amendments, moving it forward, more than a few believe the bill is far from perfect. Rep. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, summed up the sentiment for many when said the bill wasn’t perfect, but it was a huge improvement.

The bill now awaits a third reading, expected to come next week.

“I’m extremely pleased with the outcome of the perfection vote. I’m really excited to get this out of the way very quickly to give it ample time over at the Missouri Senate, and having the second floor pushing it puts it in the best position this bill has been in the past couple of years,” Alferman said. “I look forward to third reading it on Monday and hopefully giving it into the hands of Sen. Rowden so that he can do his work over in the Missouri Senate.”

If passed, it would be the first lobbyist gift ban in Missouri history and would fulfill Speaker Todd Richardson’s promise at the beginning of the legislative session in which he vowed ethics reform would be the first thing passed by the House this year.

“We’re intent on making this gift ban a permanent fixture of state law,” Richardson said. “We’ve said all along that we think this is good policy, it’s a substantive, meaningful step forward, so I want to see it done in state law. But I also want to see it done, so if we’re not able to get that bill across the finish line, then we will revisit some other options at that time.”