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Ethics Board To Consider If Lawmakers Should Report Free Meals

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Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board has capped the number of free meals lawmakers can accept from lobbyists.

Now the Ethics Board will consider whether lawmakers must report those meals. A meeting is scheduled for December 2.

Washington law says lawmakers may accept free meals on infrequent occasions as long as it’s related to their work. Until recently, infrequent had not been defined. Now it is. After much discussion, the Legislative Ethics Board settled on a dozen sit down meals a year.

The next question is who will keep track and should these meals be reported publicly. One idea is to require lawmakers to tack the meals onto their annual financial disclosure reports called F1s. They already have to report meals over $50 on this form.

This kind of change to the reporting requirement would require a change in state law. Only the legislature can do that, but the Ethics Board could request legislation.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."