- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House voted overwhelmingly Thursday for a series of new ethical requirements for public officials, including a cap on gifts and a one-year “cooling-off” period before joining the lobbying profession.

Under a Senate version approved in early February, the cooling-off period would be two years rather than one but would apply only to lawmakers whose first term in office begins after 2016. The House added the $25 limit for gifts from lobbyists, and both chambers are seeking a ban on lobbyist-paid, out-of-state trips for legislators.

The Senate can either vote on the bill as is or opt to hash out differences with the House.

Democrats, who made up the bulk of representatives voting against the measure, bashed the House bill for not going far enough. House Democratic Minority Leader Jake Hummel called the legislation the GOP’s “attempt to mask the ability to actually enable real ethics reform.”

It does not address campaign contributions, and Republican House Speaker John Diehl declined to say Thursday whether lawmakers would tackle that issue this session.

Rep. Jay Barnes, echoing praise by other GOP House members, said the legislation is a positive step toward substantive changes to ethics laws.

“I understand that still might not be enough for people,” said Barnes, a Jefferson City Republican sponsoring several other ethics bills. Still, he called the measure “a good bill. It enacts real reforms.”

Hummel questioned whether changes enacted in that chamber would make it into the final version of the bill, citing concerns from some senators that there was no such restriction in place when they first sought office.

Some raised doubts on whether new rules will make a difference.

“Unethical people are going to take stuff either way,” said Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, who spoke on the floor but was not present for Thursday’s vote. “You’re not going to make them ethical by passing a law.”

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Ethics bill is SB 11.

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Online:

Senate: https://www.senate.mo.gov

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Follow Summer Ballentine at: https://www.twitter.com/esballentine

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