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House committee passes 4 ethics bills; full Missouri House could vote by Thursday

Missouri House Republicans are keeping their foot on the gas as they steer the first group of ethics bills through their chamber.

Four ethics bills were heard by a House committee, then easily passed after little more than an hour's worth of discussions.

The bills:

  • HB 1452 -- would  require twice-yearly filings of financial disclosure reports -- passed 9-0
  • HB 1983 -- would bar lawmakers and statewide elected officials from working as paid political consultants --passed 8-0
  • HB 1575 -- would require disclosure of 3rd-party payments of lawmakers' lodging and travel expenses within 30 days -- passed 8-0
  • HB 1979 -- would create a one-year waiting period before former lawmakers and statewide elected officials can become lobbyists -- passed 7-1

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, chairs the House committee on government oversight and accountability and conducted the hearings.

"Today is the very first day on which committees can hear bills," Barnes told reporters after the votes.  "On the very first day on which committees can hear bills, we passed four substantive ethics bills out of a House committee."

The Missouri House committee on government oversight and accountability passed four ethics bills on Monday and could be debated on the House floor as early as Wednesday.
Credit Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri House committee on government oversight and accountability passed four ethics bills on Monday and could be debated on the House floor as early as Wednesday.

The four ethics bills have been placed on the House calendar, meaning they can be brought up for floor debate as early as Wednesday.

"On the very first day we can vote on the bills, I believe we will perfect four substantive ethics bills, and then on the next day, we will third-read them and send them to the Senate," Barnes said, "all in the quickest amount of time we possibly could do so."

Rep. Gina Mitten, D-Richmond Heights, voted for all four bills, but she also called them "the tiniest of possible steps, incomplete, and is being sold as a bill of goods."

The lone "no" vote on HB 1979 was cast by Rep. Penny Hubbard, D-St. Louis.

Mitten was especially critical of the House GOP's proposal for shutting the so-called "revolving door" in which former lawmakers can immediately become lobbyists after leaving office.

"There needs to be some absolutely punitive measures for someone that resigns their office early in order to become a lobbyist," Mitten said, taking a swipe at former Senate President Pro-tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles.  "As far as I'm concerned, that is unconscionable to your constituents to leave them unrepresented for months, and in some cases years, in order for you to go make a living."

Dempsey now works for a lobbying firm in Clayton, although he currently lobbies in states outside Missouri.

She also criticized the GOP-controlled committee for not hearing any proposals to restore campaign contribution limits.

"What we are not talking about is million-dollar contributions to candidates from single donors," Mitten said.

Mitten says she may offer campaign contribution limits as an amendment when the four ethics bills are taken up for debate.

Barnes and other Republicans remain opposed to restoring campaign contribution limits, saying it would lead to candidates from both parties funneling donations through multiple committees.

"All they would do is wash the money through committees," Barnes told reporters.  "That is what happened in the past."

Ethics pitches on the campaign trail

At least two of Missouri's Republican candidates for governor, former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and author/former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, renewed their own calls Monday for more ethics restrictions on lawmakers.

Hanaway offered her general support for legislative action:

"The shenanigans in Jefferson City have gone on too long. I commend the General Assembly for taking up ethics reform at the beginning of this year's legislative session," she said. "I don't think any of the bills presented are perfect, but now is not the time for the perfect to be the enemy of the good. It is good that the General Assembly is moving and I urge them to put ethics reform on the governor's desk swiftly."

Greitens laid out a list of proposals, many of which already are being considered by legislators.

He called for eight-year term limits on all statewide officials – now such limits only apply to the governor and state treasurer – and a ban on all lobbyists gifts.

Greitens also proposed that legislators would have to stay out of office as long as they had been in, before they could be come lobbyists. A lawmaker in the General Assembly for 16 years, for example, would have to stay out 16 years before they could lobby.

He also proposed a ban on campaign contributions to legislators when the General Assembly is in session.  An earlier such ban was tossed out by the courts several years ago.

Follow Marshall Griffin and Jo Mannies on Twitter:   @MarshallGReport   @jmannies

Copyright 2020 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit .

Marshall Griffin is the Statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.
Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.
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