The Missouri Senate approved an amendment to the state constitution that would ban lobbyist gifts to lawmakers.
The measure, passed Wednesday in a 20-12 vote, would also change legislative term limits to allow lawmakers to serve more time in one chamber. If the amendment is approved by the House, it will go to voters.
The gift ban was a longtime priority of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, who signed an executive order more than a year ago banning lobbyist gifts to his own employees.
Parker Briden, a spokesman for the governor, did not respond to a request for comment about the amendment.
If it ultimately passes the House, lobbyists and the organizations they work for would be banned from giving any item of value to lawmakers, their staff or family.
Various versions of the proposal have been introduced in the Legislature previously, without success. The measure overlaps with a ballot initiative called Clean Missouri, which is currently collecting signatures for another constitutional amendment that would ban all lobbyist gifts to lawmakers larger than $5, in addition to other reforms.
Just over 160,000 signatures are needed by May 6 for that amendment to appear on the November ballot. Clean Missouri spokesman Sean Soendker Nicholson said they were in the “final stages” of collecting signatures.
Many lawmakers expressed support for the gift ban, but balked at changing term limits.
If the Senate’s measure is enacted, legislators would be able to serve up to 16 years in the House or Senate. Currently, lawmakers may only serve eight years in the House and eight in the Senate, although it’s possible to serve beyond that if a seat opens up in the middle of a term.
However, the amendment would reset the clock for current lawmakers, which would allow those approaching term limits to conceivably serve another 16 years.
Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph compared the gift ban to “apple pie” and the term limit changes to “pornography,” and said forcing one vote on both provisions put legislators in an awkward position.
“They’ll say: ‘Well, he voted for pornography.’ And if you vote against the bill: ‘oh, he voted against apple pie,’” the senator said.
Schaaf ultimately voted “yes.”