March 1, 2013 •
Taking Matters into Their Own Hands
This year’s push for ethics reform in several state legislatures could not happen fast enough for some elected officials. Georgia’s Senate and Missouri’s Secretary of State, Jason Kander, decided on day one to take matters into their own hands by adopting new gift rules for their respective offices.
The Georgia Senate imposed a $100 limit on gifts from lobbyists. Senators approved the gift cap on the opening day of the 2013 General Assembly session as part of new rules governing the chamber’s operations for the current two-year term. The new rule does not apply to travel costs or to gifts provided to groups of senators, including committees. The rule does allow lobbyists to give $100 gifts on multiple occasions. Meanwhile, House Speaker David Ralston has unveiled an ethics reform bill aimed at expanding the definition of a lobbyist and restricting lobbyist gifts. House Bill 142 would ban even the smallest expenditure of a lobbyist if for the benefit of a single member of the General Assembly. Lobbyists would still be permitted to spend on committees, caucuses, and expenses to public officers for trips to conferences and meetings.
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, sworn in on January 14, 2013, announced a new ethics policy as part of his “Day 1 Achievements.” The new policy prohibits the staff in his office from accepting gifts from lobbyists. State administrative policy already curtails what state employees may accept from lobbyists, but agencies are free to adopt stricter guidelines. Additionally, Missouri’s House and Senate are both considering bills to curb lobbyist spending. House Bill 139 would prohibit General Assembly members, family, and staff from accepting more than $1,000 per calendar year from lobbyists. Senate Bill 181 would prohibit statewide elected officials, legislators, staff, employees, and family from accepting gifts over $50 from a lobbyist.
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