New rules in the Missouri Constitution outlaw gifts to elected officials that are larger than $5, which resulted in the cancellation of Taste of Jefferson City, an event aimed at promoting local food and government interests to lawmakers.
The Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce canceled the event, which has been offered to all members of the general assembly for free for over 20 years.
“(Incoming representatives and senators) are exposed to some of the foods that are available in Jefferson City, which is where they’re going to be staying four days out of the week,” said Rob Agee, owner of the downtown restaurant Madison’s.
Agee said Madison’s has participated in Taste of Jefferson City since the 1980s, and the event has been good for business. However, regulations included in Constitutional Amendment 1, which was passed by voters in November, limit how many gifts elected officials can accept.
The amendment, also known as Clean Missouri, caps legal gift value at $5. As a result, Taste for Missouri was canceled.
The event’s purpose is to socialize local lawmakers and businesses with state politicians.
Members of the Jefferson City and Cole County governments are also invited to the event to mingle with state lawmakers, but at the cost of $1,000 per 10 tickets. Participating restaurants are not reimbursed for their meals, but it is a promotion opportunity with legislators and their staff.
Sean Soendker Nicholson, the campaign manager for Clean Missouri, said any gift or favor to politicians could influence their votes. He said the amendment will cause an overdue “culture shift.”
“We’ll remove some of those temptations that get in the way of representing the people that sent them to Jefferson city,” Soendker Nicholson said.
Agee said the amendment may help reduce corruption in politics, but it will affect the local economy.
“It’s not going to be positive for Jefferson City, that the fact,” he said.
Rep. Sara Walsh (R-Ashland) said she “strongly opposed” Amendment 1 during its campaign.
“The language is now part of our State Constitution as are its unintended consequences,” Walsh said in a statement. “‘The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.'”