Lawmakers will return to the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday for the annual veto session.
They also have another motive to hustle back to Jefferson City: Money.
Most will be returning the mid-Missouri Tuesday, and they’ll be greeted by a host of parties and fundraisers — along with no shortage of free booze and food.
There are at least 18 events scheduled for Tuesday night, and another nine Wednesday morning, according a list of events compiled by the legislation tracking service GovWatch.
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After a pair of lawmakers were forced to resign this year following sexual harassment scandals involving interns, legislative leaders pledged that ethics reform will be a key piece of the General Assembly’s agenda next year.
Missouri is the only state with no limits on campaign contributions, no caps on lobbyist gifts and no restrictions on legislators becoming lobbyists, a situation many believe fueled an anything-goes atmosphere that led to the scandals.
Some will see the abundance of fundraisers this week — which have become a veto session tradition — as evidence that any ethics reform legislation will face an uphill fight in the Missouri legislature, said Wally Siewert, director of the Center for Ethics in Public Life at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“After all we’ve seen this year, it’s difficult not to look at all these fundraisers as an indication that (lawmakers) aren’t going to change how they do business, at least not voluntarily,” Siewert said. “But from their perspective, it’s hard to unilaterally disarm. They don’t do the fundraiser and it could hurt their campaigns.”
Democrats join in at 5 p.m., when Reps. Michael Butler, Jon Carpenter, Randy Dunn and Jeremy LaFaver host an event on the deck of Bones Restaurant & Lounge, also just a stone’s throw from the Capitol.
J. Pfenny’s Sports Grill & Pub, a popular bar for legislative denizens located just down High Street from the Capitol, will be especially busy.
At 5 p.m., Republican Reps. Scott Fitzpatrick, Bill Lant and Caleb Rowden will host an event on the restaurant’s deck. An hour later, Republican state senator and candidate for Missouri treasurer Eric Schmitt will host an event downstairs while former Democratic Rep. Vicki Englund holds a party for her campaign to reclaim her House seat upstairs.
“Pretty much, it’s going to pack the place,” Jay Cheshire, a bar manager at J. Pfenny’s, told St. Louis Public Radio. “We don’t have any more room for anything else on that day.”
The next morning a handful of lawmakers will host breakfast events at the Jefferson City Country Club.
The veto session officially begins at noon.
The Missouri Constitution requires the legislature to convene to consider overriding gubernatorial vetoes on the Wednesday following the second Monday of each September.
The fixed date when lawmakers, lobbyists and interest groups are all back in Jefferson City makes for a convenient time to schedule fundraisers for upcoming campaigns. The veto session also falls just a couple of weeks before the next quarterly fundraising period ends Sept. 30.