Ethics bill makes minor headway in Missouri Senate

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | 7:08 p.m. CST; updated 8:54 a.m. CST, Thursday, February 11, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — After hours of debate and multiple amendments, Missouri senators decided Wednesday to put a high-profile ethics bill on hold.

The bill, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, would restrict some lobbyist activity and campaign contributions.

Only one amendment, filed by Minority Floor Leader Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, was adopted during Wednesday's session. It would add the positions of treasurer, secretary of state, auditor and lieutenant governor to the list of officials restricted under the bill from receiving campaign contributions during legislative sessions.

Callahan said the amendment would make the proposed ethics overhaul more evenhanded.

"If we seek to build a new ethical framework, I think it's absolutely vital in this whole process that we have the concept of  'if it's good for one, it's got to be good for the other,'" he said.

Another amendment, introduced by Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington, sought to maintain eligibility of current legislators to become lobbyists if they leave office before 2011 but restrict lobbyist activity for future legislators.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, called the amendment, which has yet to come to a vote, the "ultimate jobs bill" for current lawmakers.

"We're making rules that don't apply to us?" Crowell said. "Do you want to be a lobbyist? Is that it?"

Griesheimer, who has reached his term limit this year, responded that it was a career move he was considering.

During the floor debate, points of contention ranged from term limits to specific proposals to restrict lobbying.

One particularly tense moment unfolded after Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, spent nearly an hour questioning Shields regarding his bill.

Afterward, Majority Floor Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, responded harshly to Bray's comments.

"I thought somebody maybe should talk a little bit about this bill that actually will have to live under it," Engler said of Bray, who must leave office because of term limits at the conclusion of this legislative session.

Debate on the ethics bill and proposed amendments were tabled Wednesday and will resume at the discretion of the Senate.

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