Missouri House leader: Stop free meals, gifts from lobbyists

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 | 10:38 a.m. CST; updated 11:06 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 3, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — A parents' warning to their lawmaker son that some activities could appear unethical prompted another proposal Tuesday to tighten the rules for how legislators, lobbyists and other public officials behave.

House Majority Leader Steven Tilley said he would file legislation to bar lobbyists from giving lawmakers gifts or meals and governors from accepting campaign donations from those with business before an executive branch agency. His proposal also would require lawmakers to wait 180 days after leaving office before working as lobbyists or accepting a job appointment from the governor.

Tilley said his turning point came after he showed his parents some of the things said about him on blogs. Tilley said they told him: "If people didn't know you, this would not look good."

The issue of political ethics rules is gaining momentum ahead of the annual session that starts Jan. 6, after six current or former state lawmakers were charged this year with crimes.

In the last several months, three St. Louis Democrats have pleaded guilty to federal felonies and resigned their seats. The most recent person to face legal trouble is former Republican House Speaker Rod Jetton, whom Tilley had employed as a political consultant. Jetton is charged with second-degree assault for striking and choking a woman during a sexual encounter.

There also have been persistent discussions of federal investigations into legislative actions, and several lawmakers have said the FBI has asked them about arrangements in which committee assignments, perks or favors were received for campaign donations.

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