Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lobby Reform out of Sight in Last Days of Session

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lobby Reform out of Sight in Last Days of Session

Article excerpt

With just five days to go in the Legislature's session, the outcry for lobby reform in Missouri seems to have dropped to a whisper.

Rep. Greg Canuteson, D-Liberty, spearheaded the push for "zero tolerance" on lobbyist-supplied gifts, meals and trips. His bill is virtually dead in the Senate.

Meanwhile, a weaker Senate version doesn't have a slot yet for House debate.

The lobbyist issue is one of the major bills awaiting consideration before the Legislature's adjournment at 6 p.m. Friday.

"There's still time, but this isn't a No. 1 issue," said Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico. "My phone's not talking about this. People want to know about the hog bill and safe schools."

Lawmakers still are wallowing in debate about environmental controls for hog factories. They are trying to strike a compromise on a safe schools bill to make it a felony to strike a teacher. They expect a confrontation over abortion.

There may be a wild card bill: same-sex marriages. The Senate last week voted to outlaw them. Now the matter goes to the House.

With all of this, it would be easy for a thorny issue like lobby reform to get lost in the shuffle. While legislative leaders talk about the virtues of limiting lobbyists' largess, neither the House nor the Senate bills are exactly moving with wings on their feet.

The House speaker and Senate president pro tem have pledged support this year for a reform law. Last week, each man blamed the other chamber for the holdup.

"Our bill's laying over there," said Senate President Pro Tem James Mathewson, D-Sedalia. "The speaker's got it. I've been encouraging him to move on it. He says, `I'm looking at it.' "

House Speaker Steve Gaw, in turn, points to the Senate. Gaw said the House bill, which is more strict, has lingered in the Senate Judiciary Committee since April 24.

"I'm curious about why the emphasis is on us," Gaw said. …

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