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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Lawmakers Let Free Meals Reporting Die Without A Vote

Colin Fogarty
Northwest News Network files

Washington lawmakers are on the honor system when it comes to accepting free meals from lobbyists.

They’re limited to 12 lobbyist-paid meals a year -- that’s a new rule as of January. But a bill to require them to report those meals annually died in the legislature.

Some lawmakers are resistant to new regulations and either feel like the dozen limit is unacceptable, or that this is impinging on their ability to do business in Olympia during session.

And there definitely seems to be some pushback about the whole idea that meals have become an issue.

In 2013, an investigation with the Associated Press into lobbyist-paid meals found some state lawmakers regularly ate out at lobbyist expense despite a state law that says those meals are allowed on an “infrequent” basis. However, infrequent had never been defined.

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."