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Our Opinion: Greitens' gift ban good first step

Our Opinion: Greitens' gift ban good first step

News Tribune Editorial

January 10th, 2017 by News Tribune in Opinion

Eric Greitens comes into the governor's office as an untested outsider, whose campaign was long on talk of change and short on details.

But we applaud Greitens for his first official action — taking aim at ethics reform in a building where lawmakers in recent years have talked themselves out of any kind of serious change.

Greitens' first action as governor, to ban lobbyist gifts to state employees in the executive branch, indicates his words are more than just rhetoric. 

He also banned his own employees from lobbying the governor's office after leaving.

It's this type of change that the public supports — contrary to some lawmakers' statements — and it's the right thing to do. Lawmakers have argued that a free meal from a lobbyist won't sway their vote.

But we argue it's harder to vote against the efforts of someone who is repeatedly "scratching your back" with not only meals, but fruit baskets, top-tier sports tickets and, even, vacations at golf resorts.

Lobbyists wouldn't spend the money on lawmakers if their efforts didn't pay off, and lobbyist-provided food is ubiquitous in the Capitol. On any given day, the smell of barbecue, pizza or various other foods wafts through the building. Many lawmakers even count on lobbyists to provide catered lunches during committee hearings.

State lawmakers receive a $103 per diem each day they work, more than enough to pay for their costs, including food.

Recent high-profile scandals in the Legislature — including one that led to the resignation of the previous House speaker — show the need for ethics laws in general.

Greitens gave an impressive first speech as governor at his inauguration on Monday, reiterating his intent to change. "For decades, Missourians have talked about change," he said. "Now it's time to fight for that change."

Even with a Republican supermajority in the House and Senate, he's still going to be in for a fight on issues.

Voters on state and national levels have called for change, and all new governors talk change. Only time will tell what change the Greitens administration will bring about.